Green is the New Black: How the Healthcare Industry is Embracing Sustainability and Energy Efficiency

October 12, 2015
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In today’s world of innovation and technology, almost every household and industry has been obsessed with ‘Going Green’. There has been a surge in awareness among individuals and companies alike to becoming more environmentally aware and make necessary changes in their lifestyles and operations to reduce the amount of waste and pollution one generates. 

In today’s world of innovation and technology, almost every household and industry has been obsessed with ‘Going Green’. There has been a surge in awareness among individuals and companies alike to becoming more environmentally aware and make necessary changes in their lifestyles and operations to reduce the amount of waste and pollution one generates. 

Sustainability is the new mantra of businesses and the healthcare sector has also joined the bandwagon. Compared to other industries, the medical device sector still lags behind. However, over the past few years, the healthcare as well as the medical device industry has been making a conscious shift towards the use of innovative methods to be more sustainable and energy efficient.

Solving the Healthcare Industry’s Escalating Garbage Problem

Fear of HIV epidemics in the 1980s led to the shifting of the healthcare industry from reusable medical equipment and devices to disposable, single-use versions. And even with modern sterilization techniques that destroy all viruses, the trend of using disposables has continued, if not intensified.

This, unfortunately, has given rise to billions and billions of tons of medical waste every year, generated by doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. An initiative by Practice Greenhealth, a US-based nonprofit group that works towards minimizing the environmental footprint of healthcare facilities, has been exploring ways of reducing medical garbage.

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The Greening the Operating Room initiative identifies the best programs, management practices, and products for ORs that can help alleviate energy consumption, medical waste, and costs, and even lessen patient and worker exposure to harmful chemicals.

Supporting Energy Conservation not just in Medical Facilities but even in Medical Equipment

Every company in the healthcare industry has been doing its bit to curb energy consumption – whether it is switching to energy-efficient HVAC systems or eliminating the use of mercury. However, the growing problem is the use of medical equipment that requires high amounts of energy. Studies have shown that almost 20 to 25% of the overall energy load in a given facility is used by medical equipment. As technological advancements dominate medical devices and equipment, the amount of energy used as well as the costs incurred by healthcare facilities is sure to rise.

There is, however, hope for improvement. There have been ongoing studies that scrutinize the energy consumption of medical equipment and track and compare energy use of similar equipment. An extension of the “EnergyStar” rating by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency toward different kinds of medical equipment could drive manufacturers to become more proactive and produce more energy-efficient equipment and devices.

Rising Competition Bringing Out the Best in Companies

The healthcare sector has been investing a lot of time, money, and ideas to promote the use of greener medical products and supplies. Established players as well as new entrants have been stepping up their game to keep up with the trend of going green and this has given rise to several innovative, energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and non-toxic products.

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The Green Series Medical Exam Lights by Welch Allyn are among the first of its kind medical exam lights that replace halogen lamps with energy-efficient LEDs. These lights produce bright white light with 50,000 hours of life and do not require bulb replacement.

IMEC, a nanoelectronics research center, together with Holst Center, an independent R&D center, developed a two-channel EEG system that is wireless, battery-free, and is driven by body heat and light.

Stryker’s Neptune 2 is a self-contained, efficient waste management system that limits the need to repeatedly clean waste containers or even use supplemental containers. Apart from reducing the volume of waste, the Neptune 2 also minimizes the risks healthcare workers face by exposing themselves to harmful chemicals and gases.

The biggest realization that the healthcare industry has made in recent times is that healing patients need not be at the cost of the environment. Attempting to be more energy-efficient and sustainable has been a giant leap for the medical industry and this will prove to be beneficial for companies, patients, as well as the overall environment.