Wednesday, August 17, 2022
    HomeHealthHealth tech can help solve health care's carbon emissions problem

    Health tech can help solve health care’s carbon emissions problem


    As local weather change threatens the health of the planet — and everybody dwelling on it — well being care leaders are starting to taking discover. As nicely they need to: the well being care trade is without doubt one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions.

    In line with the Future Health Index 2022 report revealed in June by Philips, the corporate I work for, in 2021 solely 4% of health care leaders worldwide reported that they had been prioritizing environmental sustainability. A yr later, that quantity has jumped to 24%, a virtually seven-fold enhance. These leaders perceive that, as an trade, well being care programs, well being expertise corporations, and different stakeholders have a accountability to behave.

    This crucial can be mirrored in main authorities initiatives, such because the Nationwide Academy of Drugs’s Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector.


    What’s much less clear to many is methods to take motion. However that doesn’t imply that there isn’t any path ahead.

    Working collectively, clients, friends, and companions throughout the worth chain can cut back this trade’s collective carbon emissions, leaving a more healthy planet and extra resilient and sustainable well being care trade for generations to come back.


    Getting critical about sustainable use of vitality and supplies

    The world’s well being care programs account for greater than 4% of global CO2 emissions — greater than the aviation or transport sectors. Hospitals have the highest energy intensity of all publicly funded buildings, and emit 2.5 times more greenhouse gases than industrial buildings. In the USA, alone, hospitals additionally produce practically 6 million tons of waste annually. The accountable and sustainable use of vitality and supplies is essential to decreasing well being care’s carbon emissions.

    Switching to renewable vitality can have a serious affect on large-scale, energy-intensive operations. Collaborating with different well being programs, suppliers, and trade companions to supply the required scale may significantly affect operations. For example, digital power purchase agreements, making use of green procurement criteria when shopping for medical tools, and investing in innovation that includes round motion — recycling, refurbishing, and remanufacturing — are all gaining reputation within the well being care trade worldwide.

    The vitality consumption of medical tools presents one other alternative for change. In my firm, buyer use of our merchandise accounts for round 80% of Philips’ whole environmental affect. That’s why we developed EcoDesign principles to scale back the vitality consumption of our merchandise, one thing that each firm must be doing.

    Circularity is central to maximizing the worth from the vitality wanted to create merchandise, cut back waste, and, by extension, decarbonize well being care. A number of choices can be found to hospitals to increase the lifetime worth, capabilities, and usefulness of their present put in programs. One among these is adopting “as-a-service” fashions.

    These fashions work like this: As an alternative of shopping for bodily tools outright, hospitals and well being programs purchase entry to tools. This provides performance with out vital upfront capital expenditure. The as-a-service mannequin permits for scaling their funding and tools utilization up or down to suit their rising or diminishing wants. After they not want the providers, or upgrades turn into obtainable, the seller is ready to reuse and recycle the merchandise so that they don’t find yourself in landfills prematurely.

    When hospitals and well being programs select to undertake as-a-service fashions, they’ll lengthen lifetime useful resource effectivity and implement good digital options that may contribute to lowered carbon emissions by well being care by rolling out updates remotely to present tools. New developments even permit for the usage of AI to assist predictive upkeep. The outcome? Longer lifetime, elevated workflow efficiencies and utilization, and decrease environmental affect. For instance, an Amazon Net Providers research confirmed that 84% less power is consumed when clients use giant, centralized cloud-based information facilities as an alternative of on-premises infrastructure.

    Going full circle — recyclability, refurbishment and eco design

    Recyclability — together with designing for disassembly — is important to scale back the environmental affect of merchandise on the ends of their lives and cut back the prices of recycling. This is without doubt one of the areas Philips focuses on with its EcoDesign method. With many shoppers eager to interrupt the take-make-dispose cycle, refurbishment and restoration of components provide a selection of pre-owned programs which were completely refurbished, upgraded, and quality-tested. On this method, clients can profit from reasonably priced, state-of-the artwork expertise that requires much less vitality and helps enhance the sustainability of the well being care trade.

    When refurbishment or remanufacturing is not an choice, accountable repurposing comes subsequent. By recovering beneficial components, producers can service older programs, maximizing lifetime worth. When repurposing is not viable, the ultimate step is recycling components again to uncooked supplies through native recycling networks.

    Going digital to ship much less resource-intensive care

    Digital assist, digital instruments, and software program allow corporations to “dematerialize,” delivering most worth with minimal assets. This might help drive a shift from resource-intensive scientific amenities to lower-cost group settings and into the house — providing extra folks entry to high quality care.

    Instruments, software program, and providers that allow digital care can get rid of the necessity for associated journey and its related CO2 emissions. In truth, one giant well being system within the Pacific Northwest reported that the rise in its telehealth visits between 2019 and 2020 helped cut back travel-related greenhouse gasoline emissions by 45%.

    Optimized care pathways might help to scale back environmental burden

    Along with the accountable and sustainable use of vitality and supplies, well being care should additional optimize care pathways to assist cut back the environmental affect of therapy. At this time, affected person journeys are sometimes arduous, with a number of separate appointments for prognosis, therapy and monitoring. And with the rising variety of comorbidities in growing old populations, that is steadily replicated throughout a number of specialties.

    Whereas decreasing the well being care trade’s environmental footprint is crucial, it’s also very important to enhance the care system by investing in prevention, first-time-right prognosis, minimally invasive therapies, and aftercare to assist enhance outcomes for sufferers and, by decreasing the quantity of assets wanted to offer care over time, the setting.

    Sustainable provide chains

    Organizations’ provide chain operations usually account for more than 90% of their greenhouse gasoline emissions. To cut back carbon emissions from well being care, leaders should take an end-to-end view of the worth chain, making procurement a cornerstone of sustainability efforts and incentivizing their suppliers to work as companions.

    That is troublesome to perform all of sudden, however taking an trade benchmark method might help. In Philips’ provider sustainability program, for instance, 28% of our suppliers (primarily based on spend) have dedicated to science-based targets for carbon discount, and that may rise to a minimum of 50% by 2025. Distributors and suppliers can contribute to the success of those sorts of applications by working straight with suppliers and incentivizing them to undertake and meet such targets, resulting in a several-fold enchancment in decarbonization compared with merely decreasing well being tech corporations’ CO2 emissions.

    Leveraging well being expertise to take motion

    Embracing sustainability throughout the well being care worth chain and in each side of enterprise is changing into increasingly more important. All stakeholders must leverage technological improvements now to decarbonize well being care.

    Well being expertise corporations can not make the required modifications in isolation. They should work with care suppliers, practitioners, information companions, and suppliers. With collective experience, sustainable practices may be mixed with secure, environment friendly, and efficient strategies of care to ship higher outcomes at decrease prices utilizing much less vitality and supplies and decreasing greenhouse gasoline emissions.

    Now’s the time to attach the dots and align, as a result of taking higher care of the planet will allow taking higher care of individuals.

    Kees Wesdorp is the chief enterprise chief for precision prognosis at Philips.

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