Applying the triple bottom line of sustainability to healthcare research—a feasibility study
Maughan, Daniel L
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Francis Vergunst, Helen L Berry, Jorun Rugkåsa, Tom Burns, Andrew Molodynski, Daniel L Maughan. Applying the triple bottom line of sustainability to healthcare research—a feasibility study. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, mzz049,
The triple bottom line (TBL) of sustainability is an important emerging conceptual framework which considers the combined economic, environmental and social impacts of an activity. Despite its clear relevance to the healthcare context, it has not yet been applied to the evaluation of a healthcare intervention. The aim of this study was to demonstrate whether doing so is feasible and useful. Secondary data analysis of a 12-month randomized controlled trial. Setting: Community based mental health care. Participants: Patients with chronic psychotic illnesses (n = 333). Intervention(s): Community treatment orders. Main Outcome Measure(s): Financial and environmental (CO2 equivalent) costs of care, obtained from healthcare service use data, were calculated using publicly available standard costs; social sustainability was assessed using standardized social outcome measures included in the trial data. Results: Standardized costing and CO2e emissions figures were successfully obtained from publicly available data, and social outcomes were available directly from the trial data. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that TBL assessment can be retrospectively calculated for a healthcare intervention to provide a more complete assessment of the true costs of an intervention. A basic methodology was advanced to demonstrate the feasibility of the approach, although considerable further conceptual and methodological work is needed to develop a generalizable methodology that enables prospective inclusion of a TBL assessment in healthcare evaluations. If achieved, this would represent a significant milestone in the development of more sustainable healthcare services. If increasing the sustainability of healthcare is a priority, then the TBL approach may be a promising way forward.