Five key levers for sustainable healthcare
Five key levers for sustainable healthcare
  • Cho Pil Hyun, Staff Reporter
  • 승인 2024.06.04 15:27
  • 수정 2024.06.04 15:27
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“In APAC, healthcare leaders are fast-tracking their sustainability plans. According to the Future Health Index, only 3 per cent of them prioritized implementing sustainability practices in 2021, but this has surged to 25 per cent in 2022.”

Royal Philips, a global leader in health technology, presented "Five Key levers for sustainable healthcare", in celebration of World Environment Day on June 5th.

Climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss are impacting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world, often hitting the most vulnerable communities especially hard.

According to the US-based CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), climate impacts such as rising temperatures, extreme weather events and rising CO₂ levels affect a wide range of health outcomes. Air pollution leads to increased rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease, and heat-related diseases and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs, such as Malaria, Dengue) are on the rise . That being said, if healthcare were a country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest emitter of CO₂, accounting for over 4% of global emissions – more than the aviation or shipping sectors . This means that, as an industry, we – health technology companies, healthcare systems, suppliers and other stakeholders across the healthcare value chain – have an urgent responsibility to act.

To achieve this, Philips has proposed the following strategies aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of healthcare systems, with the goal of achieving sustainable healthcare. 

◆Increase energy efficiency and use of renewable energy

For sustainable healthcare, enhancing energy efficiency and promoting the use of renewable energy are essential. This requires technical support and small everyday actions.

At Philips, energy consumption during the customer use phase of products accounts for the vast majority of total environmental impact. That’s why improving the energy efficiency of products is a key priority for Philips’ EcoDesign program.

Philips’ Azurion image-guided therapy platform, for example, offers at least a 10% reduction in energy consumption over its total product life usage compared to its predecessor . However, when it comes to saving energy, it’s not all about the technology: sustainable user behavior can also make a significant difference. Radiologists, for example, can actively help to reduce the energy consumption of Philips’ MR systems by switching their system to power-saving mode or off when not in use and in between scans. For reference, hospitals have the highest energy intensity of all publicly funded buildings and emit 2.5 times more greenhouse gas than commercial buildings .

◆Increase circularity and reduce waste

Healthcare is a huge consumer of natural resources, accounting for 10% of raw materials extracted globally every year . It is, therefore, crucial that we find ways to use materials for medical systems and devices in a sustainable manner. Philips’ ambition is to help customers to ‘do more with less’. Philips do this by applying circularity principles – Use less, use longer, use again – across the value chain. 

The noble gas helium, for example, is essential to maintaining the long-term availability of MR scanners, yet its global supply is limited. At Philips, we have developed BlueSeal, a fully sealed magnet that supports the transition to sustainable, helium-free-for-life MR operations, as well as simplifying installation and reducing expensive disruptions to MR services. In contrast to conventional magnet technology, which requires around 1,500 liters of liquid helium for cooling during operation, BlueSeal uses highly efficient, micro-cooling technology, which requires just 7 liters of liquid helium for cooling – less than 0.5% of today’s volume . With over 1,060 units installed globally, MRI scanners equipped with Philips' BlueSeal magnet technology have already saved more than 1.9 million liters of helium since 2018 (saving calculation based on comparison with a conventional magnet with 1,500 liters of helium). 

In many cases, healthcare providers can maximize the return on their initial investments and extend their capabilities through on-site or remote upgrades, instead of having to buy new equipment. Philips’ SmartPath for MR portfolio, for example, enables customers to re-use their existing magnets and convert them to the next generation of MR – all without the inconvenience of installing a new system, and at a fraction of the cost. This form of upgrade is also a sustainable choice, as it avoids the energy usage and carbon dioxide production caused by the manufacture and transportation of a new magnet. And thanks to software upgrades like SmartSpeed, Philips’ MR systems can scan up to three times faster , while reducing power consumption by, on average, 32% per patient scan  using the same equipment. 

◆Drive digitalization for more equitable and sustainable care

Digital health technology and AI are central to making health systems more efficient, productive and financially sustainable. Digital solutions support ‘dematerialization’ by delivering maximum value with minimum materials, thus helping to avoid unnecessary use of resources. Philips also see dematerialization in the form of the transition to cloud-based solutions, which supports savings on the materials required for on-site enterprise hardware and a reduction in CO₂ emissions. 

Philips is also addressing ‘digital waste’, in order to improve health systems’ efficiency and performance, while at the same time reducing their environmental footprint. This means, for example, designing efficient workflows that can help get scans right first time (avoiding the need for additional scans) or getting patients home a day earlier (helping Philips’ customers to reduce costs and waste).

◆Adopt innovative service models

For Philips’ customers and their patients, a system’s functionality and quality of service are what matter, not the system itself. It’s all about being able to offer the best possible imaging and informatics & analytics to improve patient cares and drive better health outcomes – not a specific piece of equipment.

Performance- and access-based models allow care providers to utilize specific functionality as a service. Philips’ Lumify with Reacts portable ultrasound service is a good example. Under this flexible subscription model, users have access to transducers, an app and online ecosystem, reducing upfront capital expenditure and improving patient access to innovative care. Similarly, under Philips’ Enterprise Monitoring as a Service (EMaaS) model, Philips retains ownership of the patient monitoring system and is responsible for all hardware, software, and networking upgrades across its network, while the customer pays a per-patient fee.

◆Buy sustainably and decarbonize the supply chain

The supply chain (scope 3, purchased goods and services) is responsible for 71% of CO₂ emissions. Philips believe that sustainable procurement is one of the key strategies that health systems and governments can adopt right now to reduce their environmental footprint. Philips is going even further, stepping up supplier sustainability program so that at least 50% of Philips’ suppliers (based on spend) will have committed to science-based targets for carbon reduction by 2025. By supporting and incentivizing our suppliers to adopt and meet such targets, Philips anticipates achieving a sevenfold greater impact than simply lowering CO₂ emissions from its own operations.

[WIKI KOREA=Cho Pil Hyun, Staff Reporter]

chop23@wikileaks-kr.org

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