The rise of sustainable health care

In a recent blog, we discussed how healthcare providers are designing and building new smart hospitals using technology as a fourth utility to securely connect clinical, operational systems, applications, devices, users and data. and commercial. Once connected, these systems can be programmed to work together to provide improved workflows and multiple organizational goals, including business resiliency, operational efficiency, safety, and improved clinician experiences, patients and guests.

Healthcare providers are also using smart hospital, telehealth and virtual care to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, helping them to meet their environmental and sustainability goals.

Sustainability of health care

At the recent United Nations climate change conference, COP26, a group of 50 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, pledged to develop resilient health systems climate change and low carbon. These countries have joined the World Health Organization (WHO) COP26 health program, which aims for a healthcare future that is resilient to the impacts of climate change, extreme weather events and the increasing incidence of diseases linked to air pollution and global warming. These countries are committed to reducing the impact of their health systems on CO2 emissions and climate change. The dual purpose of a climate-resilient, low-carbon health system was underscored by an open letter from over 450 healthcare providers representing over 46 million healthcare workers globally. This group has warned that the climate crisis is the greatest health threat facing humanity and calls on world leaders to implement climate action.

The operation of buildings represents up to 70% of electricity consumption and around 30% of CO2 emissions. Construction and building materials still account for 11% of CO2 emissions.

As an industry, health accounts for 4.4 to 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The US healthcare system accounts for nearly a quarter of these emissions, a figure that increased 6% between 2010 and 2018. These emissions contribute to climate change and indirectly lead to reduced health outcomes.

Healthcare providers who plan to construct new buildings or renovate existing ones want their buildings to use less energy and contribute to national, state and local carbon reduction targets.

Sustainability and decarbonization with a smart hospital

As systems and devices are connected and secured using the fourth utility, they can be powered by a 90W universal low-voltage power over Ethernet (UPOE +), providing reduced power consumption and CO2 emissions. .

A converged smart building architecture can power multiple building systems and devices, including bedside medical devices, LED lights, motorized shades, HVAC, building management systems, entry systems, elevators and more. alarm systems. As a result, energy consumption can be reduced by up to 45% or more, directly resulting in a reduction of 24 metric tons of CO2 emissions (MTCO2e) per year. Additional energy savings and reductions of up to 11 MTCO2e can be achieved by reducing the materials used in building construction. In turn, these energy savings and sustainability can be used to earn LEED and WELL certifications as well as stimulus and energy efficiency grants.

Take LED lighting as an example: As discussed in the recent Smart Hospital blog, LED lighting can improve patient and clinician experiences and improve clinical outcomes, through programmability and lighting. of the circadian rhythm. POE LED lighting also contributes significantly to lower operating costs and CO2 emissions – up to 3-6% less energy wasted and 8% lower total cost of ownership compared to AC LED (27% less than AC fluorescent lighting).

A smart hospital can leverage the fourth utility to deliver reduced power consumption and durability, improved security, and data-driven clinical workflows.

Telehealth and virtual care: a bridge to better access to care and sustainability

In 2020, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, increased its virtual care delivery for mental health visits by almost 750% in a single month . This change allowed for greater flexibility in scheduling appointments and follow-ups, shorter wait times and greater accessibility by removing barriers to access, especially for patients in rural and remote areas. (including remote indigenous communities).

In addition to these benefits, telehealth has been shown to result in reduced carbon emissions due to reduced car trips. A recent study published in the Journal of Climate Change and Health found that carbon emissions from patient travel for primary care, specialty care, and mental health visits in Washington and Oregon fell 46% between 2019. and 2020, due to a shift from in-person visits to virtual care. A survey of 14 research reports in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Portugal and Sweden found that virtual care and telehealth consultations reduced carbon emissions by 0 , 70 to 372 kg of CO.2e by consultation, mainly due to reduced travel. These studies have also shown that telehealth can play a role in climate-related business resilience, allowing patient visits to continue following extreme weather events.

As patients and clinicians embrace telehealth and virtual care, improved accessibility, flexibility and convenience will come with dramatic reductions in energy costs and carbon emissions.

As we work with healthcare providers and partners to help design and build smart hospitals, telehealth and virtual care, we see the potential for them to achieve multiple organizational goals while improving performance. energy efficiency, reduction of carbon emissions and sustainability. These results will help healthcare providers meet emissions targets and contribute to the targets set out in the COP26 healthcare agenda.

Whatever sustainability goals your healthcare organization seeks to achieve, Cisco can help you build the bridge to get there.

For more information on smart and sustainable hospitals, please see the following resources:

This article was co-authored by Sean Caragata and Ross Sweetzir.

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