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The Carbon footprint of Healthcare

By November 01, 2021No Comments

The annual United Nations climate change conference, COP26, takes place this week in Glasgow, it raises questions about how we as a society can reduce our carbon footprint and slow down global warming. What may come as a surprise to many is how heavy an impact healthcare has upon climate change.

To put it in context, a recent publication in the Lancet estimated the healthcare sector was responsible for 4–5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This shows how healthcare as an industry needs to consider how it can reduce its carbon output. Within healthcare there needs to be an emphasis shared between both physical individual health, and environmental health. The NHS has set the ambition to reduce it’s footprint by 80% by 2040 (relative to 1990).. We have also seen the HSE make strides towards reducing the footprint of healthcare in Ireland with the new Sustainability Strategy for Health policy which aims to redefine healthcare’s impact on climate change. A Key aspect of this shift has been through an embracing of virtual healthcare and the ‘Hospital at home’ approach.

Virtual healthcare is a sustainable method of medical management for both patients and clinicians and has become an integral aspect of the future of the healthcare industry. The nature of virtual healthcare means that there are significantly less on-site appointments, allowing patients to stay at home and receive the same quality of care as they would if they attended appointments in the hospital. It reduces hospital numbers, transport emissions and many other aspects associated with “face-to-face” healthcare. Sustainability is paramount to the patientMpower ethos. At all times, the environmental impact is considered alongside economic healthcare in all of our company practises.

In a recent case study at Galway University Hospital, a virtual-based cystic fibrosis program using the patientMpower remote monitoring solution unveiled some really promising data regarding virtual at-home care, also known as ‘Hospital at home’ and its positive impact on climate change. It was estimated that the program reduced carbon emissions by 284kgs per patient per year based just on travel alone.  Along with this it was calculated that there was a 65% reduction in the length of time a patient would stay at the hospital (7.75 days to 4.25 days), thus reducing hospital emissions on a whole.

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated how useful virtual healthcare can be. When it became unsafe for patients to travel to and from their hospital for routine check-ups, remote virtual monitoring became an integral pillar of healthcare. It showed to both patients and clinicians that adapting their care programs to remote solutions can be done with little stress and with the same quality of care. All the while demonstrating how a shift toward a more sustainable model of healthcare can be easily achieved.