Hospitals save lives and money by investing in climate resilience

Preparing for Extreme Weather Provides Significant Financial Benefit, Says New Report

In the wake of costly storms and wildfires in 2017, health care leaders can safeguard lives and their organization's financial viability by investing in climate resilience, according to a new paper published by Health Care Without Harm and PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services LLC (PwC).

Safe haven in the storm: Protecting lives and margins with climate smart health care analyzes billions of dollars in losses and resilience-related savings to demonstrate how preparing for extreme weather can make or break a health system.

The yearly average for U.S. extreme weather events costing over $1 billion has shot up from a historic 5.5 events in 2012 to 10.5 events in 2016, all during a time when many hospitals are struggling to break even. Safe haven in the storm succinctly details the financial impacts of being ill-prepared for extreme weather, the fiscal and operational benefits of preparedness, and how smart executives can take action.

“The United States experiences more extreme, high-impact weather than anywhere else on the planet – and the frequency of major events is increasing,” said Robin Guenther FAIA, LEED AP, who has been ranked the most influential designer in health care. “Communities and their health care facilities have proven quite vulnerable, and we need a convincing business case – as well as guidance – to inform proactive investments in resilience.”

Safe haven in the storm examines extreme weather's bottom line damages to hospitals, such as suspension or closure of emergency departments and other clinical services, supply chain disruptions and price increases, and reduced clinical demand and reimbursement rates. It also documents less-publicized but proven financial harm such as the loss of research animals and data.

The benefits of preparedness outlined in the paper include return on investment and risk management, fiduciary responsibility, enhanced reputation, and coverage stability. Drawing from case studies from health systems such as Partners Health Care and Texas Medical Center, the paper demonstrates the immediate benefits from investments in resilient, sustainable design measures as well as reduced impacts after an extreme weather event.

“Climate change has a major impact on health care’s bottom line,” said Clinton Moloney from PwC. “This paper is written with the busy health care executive in mind, using credible data and clear infographics that provide a frame for hospital leadership to identify opportunities for internal and community action and compelling rationales for action.”

The report concludes with a four-pronged approach for taking action: manage extreme weather risks through assessment and planning, reduce emissions in ways that also increase resilience, invest in community-level health and resilience, and lead on policy. Since health care facilities are deeply intertwined with their communities and infrastructure, Safe haven in the storm demonstrates the need for health care leaders to partner with their communities, regional emergency preparedness coalitions, and policymakers to support climate-smart action. Otherwise, the health and wellbeing of their patients and personnel, as well as the organization’s financial viability, cannot be assured.

"Clinicians and health care leaders have a special opportunity and a big role to play in the face of climate change,” said Donald M. Berwick, MD, President Emeritus & Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement. “Our missions, our communities' respect, and the sector's large carbon footprint give us extra responsibility. Leaders can and should set an example, from organizational climate action to supporting good government policy on renewable energy, reducing emissions, food waste and more. ‘Safe Haven’ shows the cost of addressing and preparing for climate change is much lower than the cost of business-as-usual."

The report can be found at:

About Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm seeks to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice.

About PwC’s Health Industries Group
PwC’s Health Industries Group is a leading advisor to public and private organizations across health industries including healthcare providers, pharmaceuticals, health and life sciences, payers, employers, academic institutions and non-health organizations with significant presence in the health market. We continue to help the best health systems in the world make future-defining choices and discover new opportunities for growth.

Safe haven in the storm is made possible thanks in part to support from Barr Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The MacArthur Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and PwC.