Greener future for healthcare

There’s no point in cleaning hospital equipment of the building itself is poisoning the patients. This is the mindset you should have when considering the intersection between healthcare and what’s being done to make the world greener. The atmosphere is deeply affected by horrible pollutants thanks to industries not taking appropriate steps to counter the side-effects of production. That’s why it’s important to consider the future of medicine, while also thinking about how healthcare will change in future.

Green hospitals

As HHM points out, hospitals more than many other buildings their size, should be aware of the waste they produce.

“As hospitals typically use significantly more resources and produce more waste than comparably sized commercial buildings, the effective deployment of environmentally driven strategies to improve resource management is of critical importance in the development of sustainable healthcare facilities. A World Health Organization (WHO) report published last year urged hospitals to proactively address the environmental footprint of the healthcare sector by reducing power consumption, utilizing alternative energy generation, and through the recycling and conservation of resources.”

This ties into a general focus on green buildings which can lead to more efficient management of energy. Indeed, so much goes into running a building, it makes sense to reduce how much you spend. This means greener is just saving on unnecessary costs. There are all sorts of initiatives to make hospitals healthier in this way, too – waste often has a by-product of being unhealthy for those around. Imagine what this could mean for patients, if hospitals handle their waste poorly.

3D printing efficiency

3D-printing is one of the most effective and powerful new forms of design. It allows designers to create a 3D model of a 2D design. This means when you print it out, you do not have excess waste. It is particularly important to create medical devices which are accurate and carefully designed for the patient. As The Future of Things points out:

“While an entire organ has yet to be successfully printed for practical surgical use, scientists and researchers have successfully printed kidney cells, sheets of cardiac tissue that beat like a real heart and the foundations of a human liver, among many other organ tissues. While printing out an entire human organ for transplant may still be at least a decade away, medical researchers and scientists are well on their way to making this a reality.”

Prosthetics and numerous other devices that require precision building are also finding success. As points out “3D printing allows for the creation of geometrically complex designs not previously possible with traditional techniques.” GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines showed this through their joint company, CFM International, by 3D printing highly publicized LEAP jet engine fuel nozzle. “With the LEAP nozzle, CFM was able to reduce the part count on the assembly from 18 parts to just one. The resulting design brought new efficiency to aircraft engines, cutting fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 15 percent.”

YourStory also noted “3D printing produces almost no waste and consequently preserves raw materials. It also cuts down on the carbon emissions that are usually generated from industrial manufacturing.”

Applying this to medicine shows how you can take a green approach to healthcare. It is essential medical products are made in efficient ways. Healthcare can’t afford to slow down or go in any other direction, aside from forward. And efficiency must be the driving force, since this reduces costs and therefore makes it easier to acquire and create. Reducing costs for manufacturers means less resource consumption and reducing cost for consumers means more patients can get these devices.

Greener drugs

Pills are a major part of healthcare. People need chronic medication that comes in a variety of forms. The problem is drug companies often have little reason to invest in greener alternatives, since primarily their concern is profits and pleasing their shareholders. As Slate noted in an extensive article about creating greener drugs, “Today, companies have little incentive to make greener drugs unless doing so coincides with other profit-enhancing benefits, like reduced side effects. Designing drugs is painstaking and expensive, and adding another criterion makes it that much harder.”

There are interventions that might be possible, such as reducing dosage amounts, but even here this requires new forms of thinking – meaning more time and money than is already being used. Drug companies are some of the richest in the world, but their profits are built up due to years of research and design.

Efficiency is key to all forms of medicine. And a green approach must be based on being efficient. In this way, the world will hopefully find a way to move forward into greener territory with regard to healthcare – so more people have access, but the world itself is also in a better position to sustain more people.