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Future of Healthcare Q1 2023

It will take more than recycling tools to shift to sustainable healthcare

Image provided by ABHI

Addie MacGregor

Sustainability Executive, ABHI

We need to change the way healthcare services are delivered to both assure patient safety and reduce any negative environmental impacts.


Healthcare is a known polluter. In 2019, the healthcare industry accounted for an estimated 5.2% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, perhaps not surprising when some countries — crucially — spend up to 20% of their GDP on healthcare.  

HealthTech can reduce environmental impact 

Healthtech (medical devices, diagnostic and digital technologies) has a pivotal role to play in changing the way that healthcare is delivered. Although reducing waste and recycling used devices are critical to reducing our environmental impact, using these interventions alone will not get us to the NHS net zero targets of 2045. The healthtech sector has invested heavily in developing revolutionary devices and models of care. 

A pandemic that shifted healthcare practices 

Healthcare changed in nature throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The general public conducted their own diagnostic tests at home in the form of lateral flow tests, we moved to remote triage for many patients and remote monitoring for continued care in the home. Although born from necessity and crisis, we can take these lessons and use them to reduce the resource burden on hospitals, in turn reducing our environmental impact. 

The correlation between the changing climate and the impact on human health is alarming.

Quickly adopting healthcare innovations 

The industry is innovative in nature, and it is always honing its skills. From shrinking PCR machines from the size of a room to being able to sit on a table, to the use of robotics in minimally invasive surgery and devices that can safely capture heavily polluting anaesthetic agents, the breadth of innovation in this space is remarkable. To ensure that these devices can deliver sustainable outcomes, which are better for both people and the planet, our healthcare services must be equipped to adopt them. 

Sustainable healthcare is better for everyone 

The correlation between the changing climate and the impact on human health is alarming. The negative effect of air pollution on respiratory diseases is only one example. By using some of the interventions as detailed here, we will not only be reducing our impact on the planet, but we will also be reducing the impact on ourselves.

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