How Technology can Help Hospitals In Their Sustainability Initiatives
Mark Kramer, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, made a compelling case about the idea of “creating shared value”, the notion of businesses reaping economic value by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business.
The key to creating shared value is maintaining a healthy and profitable business. To do this, businesses must have a constant dialogue and a harmonious relationship with its stakeholders. Taking strides to compact the company’s impact on the environment plays a huge role in fostering this harmonious relationship. Your customers will also recognize these efforts, which are invaluable in the age of the conscious consumer.
According to a Forbes report, 92% of people who participated in a comprehensive study stated that they will be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. It’s no secret that sustainability is good for business, and healthcare is a unique industry because it provides its drivers and leaders with the tools to combat and minimize impact at every step of the way. This tool is technology, and in this blog, we are going to journey through a few ways in which one can intelligently use technology to achieve greener goals.
The parameters that need to be addressed
Hospitals operate every day; there’s no closing times or working hours, so the consumption of energy and resources is continuous and constant. The chief contributors that need to be addressed are the generation of heat, resource consumption, and waste management. All hospitals generate a lot of heat. There’s heavy machinery, computers, technology, not to mention heat emitted from bodily functions of hundreds of patients and doctors under one roof. Cooling systems also generate their own amount of heat and using energy-saving air conditioning goes a long way in achieving your green objectives as well as cutting down energy costs. From food wastage to excessive power usage, hospitals consume a large amount of resources at every step of the way. From billing to document saving, the way you choose to operate will decide the sustainability efforts of your hospital. Lastly, waste is an obvious issue that needs to be dealt with delicately.
Say No to Paper-based Operations
A single sheet of paper requires 2.5 gallons of water to produce
Hundreds of hospitals still use paper for records, and the span of records in a hospital is huge. There are medical records, health records, records to keep tabs on inventory, and so on. About 26% of waste dumped in landfills is paper, and the healthcare industry is a massive contributor to this. The misconception that paper is green because it comes from trees is also an issue because paper emits methane on decomposing. Switching to EHR solutions not only saves water, but it also eliminates the question of greenhouse gas emissions during the decomposition state. And it’s not just paper that needs to change; it’s also archaic MRI machines, CT scanners which consume a lot of electricity. These older models not only consume more power, but they also add to the heat generation of the hospital. Make sure that your machines are all up to date.
Say Yes to Telemedicine
An average of 10.1 million visits are made annually to nursing facilities alone. A large portion of these can be eliminated with telemedicine.
According to a report by Bradley University, about 10. 1 million office visits are made annually to nursing facilities alone, at the cost of around $1.3 billion per year. Telemedicine can curb these numbers and limit clinical visits to situations where they are absolutely necessary. This makes life easier for patients, eases the load on doctors and nurses, and does wonder for the environment. Think about all the greenhouse gas emissions going to and from the doctor’s office, all these trips add up and drastically reduce the hospital’s carbon footprint. Technologies such as AI chatbotsmake it easier for patients to interact with care providers from the comfort of their homes. Wearable technology makes tracking chronic illnesses that require timely check-ins a lot easier. Wearables track and report your vitals so that you don’t have to take the trouble to go to a hospital. Telemedicine is already being embraced by healthcare providers and patients alike. This year, the projections are that 78.5 million patients around the world will reap the benefits of telemedicine in some form or the other.
Implement Biomedical Waste Management Systems
Every day, U.S. hospitals alone create nearly 7,000 tons of solid waste.
Hospitals are open and operational 24 hours a day, every day of the year. This means continuous cooling, heating, lighting, and waste production. What’s more is the nature of the waste produced by hospitals. 7,000 tons is just plastic waste such as medical gloves, syringes, and so on. Add to that around 29,000 pounds of food waste per year. Sadly, a huge portion of this waste is unavoidable, but it can certainly be drastically curbed with the help of technology.
Hospitals can leverage technology solutions to combat biomedical waste by managing it appropriately. These technology solutions allow one to categorize, track, schedule, and identify waste collection and transportation. It also allows for special management of radioactive management of waste disposal, and color codes different waste types, which makes it easier to segregate. IoT enabled tracking allows the hospital to ensure proper disposal of waste in a timely manner. Business Intelligence dashboards will give the hospital comprehensive data that can enable the hospital to manage waste better. All these efforts go a long way in ensuring that a healthcare company is meeting its sustainability initiatives.
Avoid Food Waste
Hospitals generate roughly 3 pounds of food waste per bed every day. Hospitals can close this gap by deploying IT solutions to better manage dietary requirements and production.
There are three pillars to combating this daily waste, measuring the waste, adopting a room service model, and donating leftovers. All this is made possible with dietary management technology, which will schedule meals based on the bed occupancy. Each bed will have its own dietary requirements, and maintaining this without tech can be nerve-wracking. Human error is the biggest cause of waste generated in the hospital kitchens. Leave the scheduling to tech, which will easily categorize food items and maintain information such as calorie count, allergen information, and so on. Dieticians can also modify meal plans as required and schedule the same for a fixed amount of days. This makes it easier for kitchens to plan their production, and they will purchase ingredients in volumes that are best suited to upcoming meal plans as opposed to overshooting or undershooting.
In conclusion, the technology to make healthcare achieve sustainable outcomes exists and is constantly being improved. However, technology is redundant without effective leadership, which is where the most important part of sustainability comes in – governance and decision-making. If the top management of companies steps up, only then technology can be implemented. While the statistics above prove that there’s a lot of practical monetary gain in the form of being more efficient, it’s noteworthy that there is also monetary gain from the goodwill and recognition that a sustainable and conscious company can earn itself.