5 most powerful green IT practices

By Michelle McNickle
09:21 AM

It's noble and potentially cost-efficient, but embracing the "go green" trend isn't simple.

If properly executed, green IT can mean healthcare organizations see fewer bills, contribute lower levels of carbon emissions, and enjoy an easier transition into mandated practices. But it has to be done right.

Jerry Buchanan, account director Healthcare Technology and Services at eMids Technologies, shares five powerful green IT practices for healthcare.

1. EMR: Paper trails have met their match with the creation of one of the most popular green IT practices: the electronic medical record. "Anyone can remember going to the doctor and seeing a huge file filled with paper,” said Buchanan.

An analysis conducted by Kaiser Permanente, published in the May 2011 issue of Health Affairs, estimated that EMRs have the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 1.7 million tons across the United States. The same study, which looked to 8.7 million users of Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, showed that using an EMR avoided the use of 1,044 tons of paper for medical charts annually. It all resulted in a positive net effect on the environment.

[See also: 2 'Green' Energy Building Techniques for Healthcare Facilities]

2. Telemedicine: Although telemedicine has existed for more than 20 years, its benefits are just now coming to light, especially in rural communities. "People don't have to drive all over for specialist referrals and things of that nature,” noted Buchanan. In addition to cutting down on gas emissions, telemedicine has been shown to better manage chronic diseases; improve the care of elderly, homebound, and physically challenges patients; and improve community and population health. 

[See also: Green IT a growing opportunity for vendors.]

3. Server Virtualization: Server virtualization continues to be one of the most common ways organizations are going green. By virtualizing servers in their data centers, organizations are reducing the number of physical servers used. In turn, this cuts physical hardware costs and the data center's carbon footprint. A report by The 451 Group titled “Eco-Efficient IT” found that each server eliminated through virtualization can reduce power consumption in a data center by up to 400 watts, which is the equivalent of about $380 per year, per server.

[See also: GAO pushes for better federal green IT efforts.]

4. Desktop Virtualization: Desktop virtualization doesn’t just lower energy costs – it can also increase productivity and decrease capital expenses on PC hardware. The technology promises thin-client computing by centralizing management of all user desktop environments on a single platform. In 2009, Forrester Research published a report comparing thin clients to desktops and found thin clients consume between five and 60 watts per device, compared to the 150 to 350 watts used by a desktop PC.

[See also: EU organization promotes green IT online.]

5. Virtual Collaboration: Web conferencing, instant messaging and other software all come into play when promoting virtual collaboration. By partaking in virtual employee meetings and other collaborative efforts, travel and other expenses are cut dramatically. Employing virtual collaboration increases efficiency and enables employees to access information and applications anywhere at any time. Additionally, using this technology can increase productivity and teamwork. 

What is your organization doing to go green?  Leave your comments below.