Case Study: Improving ITAD – The Next Generation Cure for Catholic Health Initiatives

By Ron Horn & Dag Adamson

One of the nation’s largest faith-based health systems, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) operates 73 hospitals and other facilities in 19 states and continues to grow and expand. CHI’s IT organization streamlines and distributes IT operations in support of world class healthcare. Additional goals include maintaining regulatory compliance and improving operational and cost efficiencies.

As part of these operational improvements, CHI’s IT Asset Management organization has focused on the many issues and challenges associated with IT asset disposition.

As explained by CHI’s ITAM Director Ron Horn, “The main challenge to IT asset disposition is that it typically just ‘happens’. With the best of intentions, an IT staff member gets ’stuck’ finding a way to get rid excess or expired IT assets and ultimately finds some nameless disposal vendor or recycler that makes it disappear, leaving behind a piece of paper indicating that they will do the right thing.”

Taking ITAD to the Next Level

Horn described the first step towards the next generation ITAD program was to benchmark the present condition of CHI’s ITAD processes. Going beyond a simple economic analysis of the present and future value of the IT equipment portfolio, CHI utilized LifeSpan Technology’s assessment tool (the ITAD EKG) to gain a thorough insight into current practices and identify the opportunities for operational and risk mitigation improvements.

“In addition to assuring that we developed ITAD systems to meet HIPAA/HITECH [legislated] data security compliance requirements, we also wanted to make sure that we developed a program that would provide environmental stewardship in our communities that we operate.” Horn explained that one of the core beliefs of the Catholic Church and in particular, Pope Benedict XVI, is that environmental stewardship is our generation’s responsibility in order to support future generations.

There are five core components to CHI’s successful ITAD program:

  • Mitigate environmental liability
  • Mitigate privacy liability
  • Control the chain of custody
  • Control costs and/or optimize value
  • Protect the CHI brand
Environmental Liability

Environmental liability is reduced by subscribing to a recycling solution that adheres to an accredited electronics recycling standard like the EPA-sponsored R2 (Responsible Recycling) standard combined with the Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS). The advantage to the R2/RIOS standards is that they are maintained in an open forum with input from end users, manufacturers, non-profits, government entities, refurbishers and recyclers. A key component in R2/RIOS is that they advocate re-use of unwanted IT assets prior to recycling, a clearly greener approach. By subscribing to standards like R2/RIOS, and using a vendor that is constantly audited by independent and accredited auditors, CHI reduces its liability while gaining sustainable value from remarketing, donating and reusing tested and working disposed IT assets.

Data Privacy Liability

Data privacy compliance is fortified by subscribing to data security practices that are specified by the National Association of Information Destruction’s (NAID’s) AAA certification. This certification specifies best practices for employees and operational security measures to provide data security compliance including the HIPAA/HITECH requirements. Like most medical institutions, CHI wanted to assure that no patient data or any other data leaves the facility. To relieve the burden on the busy IT staff, CHI uses the ITAD vendor to provide both on-site sanitization of functioning IT assets and discrete hard drives, plus on-site physical destruction of non-working or highly sensitive storage media.

Chain of Custody

One of the operational challenges that CHI addressed early on in its program, in conjunction with its enhancements to its IT asset management platform upgrade, was to identify and catalog retired assets prior to leaving the medical facility. Recognizing the risk of relying on a vendor to report what items were picked up after the fact, CHI improved its chain of custody by requiring the vendor to provide on-site scanning and data collection that is reconciled in real time with inventory previously collected by CHI personnel. With this reconciled inventory, a clear transfer of title and chain of custody is provided on site at all of CHI’s facilities.

Control Costs and/or Optimize Value

Key goals of CHI’s program are to reduce cost and optimize value. A large component of cost in the ITAD supply chain is transportation and logistics. Predicting continued increases in fuel prices, CHI selected a vendor that had a national footprint reaching all corners of the U.S. in order to minimize transportation costs. From a value proposition, rather than recycling all assets, CHI requires that IT systems are sanitized, completely tested and then either remarketed or donated to ensure the most green and sustainable use of retired IT assets.

Protect the CHI Brand

The final goal to CHI’s ITAD program is to protect the Catholic Health Initiatives brand. As a trusted stakeholder in the communities that it serves, it is imperative that Catholic Health Initiatives take steps to protect its credentials and reputation. Financial penalties from lax data privacy compliance would be dwarfed by the damage to its reputation in the community should CHI not properly manage IT asset disposition.

Implementing strategic and industry-leading ITAD best practices provides the Catholic Health Initiatives the next generation’s cure to IT asset disposition.

About the Author

Ron Horn is with Catholic Health Initiatives.