The rise of sustainable health care


In a recent blogwe talked about how healthcare providers are designing and building new smart hospitals using technology as a fourth utility to securely connect systems, applications, devices, users, and clinical, operational, and business data. Once connected, these systems can be programmed to work together to deliver enhanced workflows and multiple organizational goals, such as business resilience, operational efficiency, security, and enhanced experiences for physicians, patients, and guests.

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

Health sustainability

At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, a group of 50 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada committed to developing climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems. These countries joined the World Health Organization (WHO) COP26 Health Programwhich seeks a future for healthcare that is resilient to the impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, and the increasing incidence of diseases related 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 goals of a climate-resistant, low-carbon health system were emphasized by an open letter from more than 450 health care providers representing more than 46 million health care workers worldwide. This group warned that the climate crisis is the biggest health threat facing humanity and calls on world leaders to comply with climate action.

Building operations they account for up to 70% of electricity consumption and approximately 30% of CO2 emissions. Construction and building materials they account for another 11% of CO2 emissions.

As an industry, Healthcare accounts for 4.4 to 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The US health care system accounts for almost a quarter of these emissions, a figure that grew by 6% between 2010 and 2018. These emissions contribute to climate change and indirectly lead to a reduction in health outcomes.

Healthcare providers planning to build new buildings or adapt existing ones want their buildings to consume less energy and contribute to national, state and local carbon reduction targets.

Sustainability and decarbonization with a smart hospital

Because systems and devices are connected and protected by the fourth utility, they can be powered by universal power via low-voltage 90W Ethernet (UPOE +), providing lower power consumption and reduced CO2 emissions. .

A convergent smart building architecture can power various building systems and devices, including night medical devices, LED lights, motorized window curtains, air conditioning, building management systems, entrance systems, elevators, and systems. of alarm. As a result, energy consumption can be reduced by up to 45% or more, leading directly to a reduction of 24 metric tons of CO2 (MTCO2e) emissions per year. Additional energy savings and reductions of up to 11 MTCO2e can be achieved by reducing materials used in building construction. In turn, these energy savings and sustainability can be used to obtain LEED and WELL certifications, as well as stimulus and energy efficiency grants.

Take LED lighting as an example: as discussed recently smart hospital blogLED lighting can provide improved patient and physician experiences and clinical outcomes, using programmability and circadian rhythm lighting. POE LED lighting also contributes significantly to reducing operating costs and CO2 emissions: up to 3-6% reduces energy waste and the total cost of ownership by 8% lower compared to LED AC (27% lower than fluorescent AC).

A smart hospital can take advantage of the fourth utility to deliver reduced power consumption and sustainability, improved security, and data-driven clinical workflows.

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

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

In addition to these benefits, telehealth has been shown to reduce carbon emissions as a result of fewer car trips. A study recently 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 by 46% between 2019 and 2020 as a result of a change from face-to-face visits to virtual care. A survey of 14 research reports in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden found that virtual care and telehealth consultations resulted in carbon savings of between 0.70 and 372 kg of CO2and by consultation, mainly due to the reduction in travel. These studies also showed that telehealth can play a role in climate-related business resilience, by enabling patient consultations to continue in the wake of extreme weather events.

As patients and physicians adopt telehealth and virtual care, improved accessibility, flexibility, and convenience will be accompanied by 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 energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and sustainability. . These results will help healthcare providers meet their emissions targets and contribute to the goals set out in the COP26 Health Care Program.

Regardless of the sustainability goals your healthcare organization wants to achieve, Cisco can help build the bridge to reach it.

To learn more about smart and sustainable hospitals, visit the following resources:

This post was co-written by Sean Caragata and Ross Sweetzir.

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