In order to really move the needle in a commitment to making the world healthier and more sustainable, organizations need to apply EcoDesign principles to develop products that are more resource and energy efficient. For example, Philips’ MR Ingenia Ambition scanner reduces the amount of helium needed to supercool its magnet from the 1500 liters typical of a conventional MR machine to a mere 7 liters. EcoDesign also reduces the total weight of the machine by 900kg, resulting in less stringent installation requirements that facilitate greater access to high quality MR imaging. Here, it is key to think beyond to the health tech product to understand the end-to-end environmental impact in the context of a patient journey, a topic I will come back to when discussing outcome-based solutions.
Digitize and virtualize healthcare:
The second thing the industry can do is to adopt truly circular models, including digitizing and virtualizing healthcare wherever possible. Digitizing care not only improves resource allocation and access to care, it also enhances clinical decision making and facilitates networks of care in which knowledge, capabilities and resources can be shared globally at scale. For example, Philips’ eICU program allows critical care specialists stationed in Australia to work during the daytime monitoring patients in U.S. ICUs overnight. Virtual models of care allow us to improve the quality and efficiency of care, reducing waste. Telehealth models that enable care at home also take away the need for traveling to and from the hospital for regular consults with the doctor or nurse.
Outcome-based healthcare solutions:
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Thirdly, the industry can embrace value- and outcome-based healthcare models that utilize existing resources in better ways, offering healthcare organizations total solutions rather than single transaction product purchases. For example, offering diagnostic imaging as a service rather than simply selling a scanner, with remuneration directly linked to patient outcomes. Through long-term strategic managed-service partnerships with leading hospitals, it’s a model that Philips successfully pioneered as far back as 2014. By retaining ownership of the installed equipment base, Philips is better able to repurpose and recycle it when needed and replace it with the latest state-of-the-art solutions, keeping its customers at the forefront of patient care. It is critical health technology organizations wok with their clinical partners to systematically reduce the environmental impact per treatment and align improved clinical outcomes and patient experiences (e.g., short stays in hospitals, lower readmission rates, and more) with much lower environmental burdens.