Science / Health

Guide to Making Healthcare Facilities More Sustainable

The healthcare industry and hospitals serve millions of people globally each day, but their operations aren’t exactly what we would class as eco-friendly. However, with the increase in complex public health issues and climatic changes, the need for a sustainable and more eco-friendly working environment has become necessary. Furthermore, the rise in awareness coupled with advancements in sustainable technology have led people to rethink how they live and work. People are moving away from high carbon energy sources to cleaner alternatives such as solar power to reduce their carbon footprint. This has created an urgency, where industries like the healthcare sector to adapt to this change if they want to stay relevant.

Sustainability means meeting human needs by conserving nature; it has several benefits. It improves the well-being and progress of an individual. It enhances the work performance of employees and gives them more opportunities to grow. Similarly, encouraging sustainable traveling reduces stress, improves health, and reduces air pollution. Hence, sustainability is like a continuous cycle that has a significant impact on well being of one another. Now, one would ask what is sustainability in health care and how it impacts the environment? So let’s discuss that.  

The health care industry produces about 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases and smog. This significant percentage has pushed the higher authorities of the healthcare sector to practice and promote green health. And since hospital setups are the most energy-intensive component of the health care system, there is where we need to start. You can take several steps to minimize the harmful impact hospital setups have on the environment. Interested? Continue reading the article to explore some strategies you can apply to healthcare facilities to boost efficiency and sustainability.

1. Electronic health records:

An infinite amount of paperwork is being generated at hospitals to maintain records of patients, medicines, employees, and other supplies. So to improve sustainability, you need to reduce your paper consumption by switching to an electronic health record system (EHR). Bringing all your recordkeeping practices into the digitalscape has multiple benefits like safekeeping of records for years thanks to cloud and automatic backup, eliminating the need for physical storage, etc. Not only is this system more eco-friendly, but the data can be accessed by both the patient and healthcare providers from anywhere, at any time. So do your part by installing an EHR system and arrange training sessions for the employees to reduce operational errors.

2. Food from local sources:

The cafeteria of a hospital has to serve food to hundreds of patients and employees in a single day, so if the produce is getting delivered from a distant area, it will utilize more fuel, which means excessive fuel emission and pollution. Hence, it is beneficial to source food from a local farmer to lower the environmental impact and provide the patients with fresh fruits and vegetables.

3. Energy saving lightings:

Healthcare facilities utilize a significant amount of energy to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for the patients and employees. Certain types of equipment like life support machines need a constant power supply, so don’t mess with those. Instead, find other areas to focus on for your energy-saving initiatives, like switching to energy-efficient LED technology. Switching to eco-friendly lights helps reduce your healthcare facility’s carbon footprint and allows you to save a lot of money on electricity bills. The same goes for control systems; they can enable you to reduce energy consumption and operating costs to a great extent.

4. Eco-friendly cleaning products:

A clean and healthy hospital environment can make or break a patient’s trust in the quality of care. Therefore, disinfection and sterilization are done extensively in hospital setups. For which they use a wide range of cleaning products. While employing some green cleaning methods like power washing or pressure washing can be challenging on a daily basis, it is much easier to switch to green cleaning products. Conventional cleaning products pollute the environment and cause a raise a range of health concerns. Hence, it is wiser to utilize eco-friendly cleaning products for the sake of your patients’ and employees’ health.

5. Recyclable devices:

Recycling medical devices have always been part of the cleaning and disinfection protocol. However, there is still a substantial amount of medical waste polluting landfills, most of which constitutes of single-use devices. So an efficient way to reduce your facility’s environmental impact is to recycle these single-use devices. You can easily reuse them after proper sterilization and packaging to preserve the environment and increase cost-effectiveness. Hence, to ensure adequate recycling in your healthcare facility, you can place recycle bins next to waste bins in areas that are accessible to the patients and staff. This way, the disposal and recycling will be easy.

6. Sustainable disposal system:

Modern medicine has progressed astoundingly in recent years; take the example of wearable artificial pancreas that monitors blood sugar levels and dispenses insulin whenever needed. However, while the healthcare industry is making strides in one area, other areas are still lagging — healthcare facilities are still not able to manage the waste crisis that will likely explode at any moment. Hence, hospitals should take adequate measures to minimize this issue as much as possible. Instead of incinerating waste, they can use alternative methods like autoclaves or microwaves to disinfect the instruments. Also, healthcare facilities can invest in reusable devices or other green alternatives that pose minimal harmful effects to the environment.

A take-home message:

Low operational cost, patients’ and employees’ well-being, and environment-friendliness are incentives enough for healthcare facilities to go green. Though it might seem like a daunting process with some effort, sustainability is very much achievable. However, for the healthcare industry to become more sustainable, we need to stop looking at greener practices and initiatives as an avoidable expense and instead consider them a valuable investment that will ensure our healthcare facilities’ place and relevance in the future. Start today! Even if you can’t implement a massive change, start with several small ones to make your healthcare facility more sustainable.

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