Even if we’re loathe to admit that climate change is a thing, it makes sense for those who use the most energy to do what they can to keep their carbon footprint in check, which puts the medical industry right up near the top of the list.
According to Healthcare Design Magazine, "Each year healthcare systems spend more than $8 billion on energy, making them one of the largest consumers of energy among U.S. institutions." And yet, the piece continues, "most healthcare systems have been slow to reduce energy related to their equipment needs. From CT scanners to heart monitors, medical machines account for 18 percent of hospitals’ total energy use. The more doctors rely on sophisticated equipment to help patients, the more a hospital’s energy use goes up."
As our lives become more immersed in technology, that sophisticated equipment is not likely to decrease. Luckily, there are companies dedicated to providing green options to the medical industry.
Here are just a few ways technology is helping medicine go green:
The amount of waste that happens in a hospital setting can be staggering. Recycling items that can be recycled is smart – as is conducting studies to identify which new items could make the cut.
Health Care Communication states, "According to The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, reprocessed devices can cost half as much as new devices, which improves the hospital’s bottom line without sacrificing clinical quality." That study looked at small devices used in orthopedic surgery, but there are options for larger devices as well.
Like refurbishing medical equipment. Nicole Denjoy, vice chair of the Global Diagnostic Imaging, Healthcare IT and Radiation Therapy Trade Association, was quoted in a piece by 24x7 magazine as saying: "Refurbishment of medical equipment helps save energy and resources while preventing unnecessary waste. At the same time, it allows access to affordable quality equipment.”
There's even a device that can recycle a patient's own blood from internal bleeding. It's called Hemafuse, and it was the 2015 Social Impact Winner at SXSW Eco. Developed by Sisu Global Health, Hemafuse uses man-powered suction and pumping via a special syringe to transfuse recycled blood – making it a green option that can offer help to emerging markets that may not have reliable energy structures in place. Pretty cool!
More medical devices making a difference
Speaking of cool devices, there are some others making waves in the medical community, while keeping an eco-conscious mindset.
NeoLight out of Scottsdale, Ariz., was a SXSW Eco Social Impact Finalist this year for creating an alternative phototherapy option to treat infants with jaundice – a condition that can be life-threatening in the first few days of a baby's life. Because NeoLight uses LEDs instead of Halogen bulbs, it provides a gentler (and faster) treatment option, but also uses only a small amount of power, resulting in a low carbon footprint. According to their website, NeoLite offers "Annual power savings of over $700 per device."
Green initiatives come in many shapes and sizes
While the ability to offer energy-efficient equipment is expected by a company the size of GE, whose Optima CT scanner boasts lower CO2 emissions by up to 60%, it's nice to see smaller companies committed to green efforts as well.
As part of their "Ecovation" program, Cambridge Consultants researched the environmental impact of blood glucose monitoring systems for diabetics, and innovated a new line of eco-friendly blood glucose devices that reduces the waste associated with single-use lancets and test strips.
Along similar lines, POC Medical Systems created the Pandora CDx Point-of-Care System, which, according to their website, "provides for a simultaneous molecular test for the presence of 90 serum markers at the point of care and hence is ideal for screening capabilities for other life-threatening diseases like Cancer, Cardiovascular disorders, Infectious diseases etc."
The device's WiFi can send reports directly to caregivers, and because it's small enough to be portable, it can be kept and used right at doctors' clinics, eliminating time-consuming, additional commutes to external lab facilities. Less driving is always greener – and much less of a hassle when you're sick.
As the conversation about climate change continues, and citizens of the world take steps toward more sustainable lifestyles, it's important that all industries move toward more eco-conscious approaches. After all, there's no downside. Unless we all get so healthy that the medical industry becomes obsolete.
What a wonderful problem that would be to have.