Sustainability

Opportunities in times of crisis

How hospitals can find ways to save energy in the long term
Julia Donhauser-Bach
Published on February 27, 2023

As organizations, healthcare providers have always played an important social role, since they are the ones who care for us when we are sick. And in addition to the many challenges the sector faces – staff shortages, cost pressures, the energy crisis – its impact on the environment is increasingly coming into focus.

<p>If the healthcare industry were a country, it would be the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. So it, too, is being called upon to make its contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement.<sup>1</sup></p><p>The pressure is high: Investors and employees are also increasingly interested in adopting a direction that is climate-friendly and conserves resources. The medical sector must adapt, and this can offer opportunities for positive change.</p>
<p>Political crises and natural catastrophes, in combination with many other factors, have resulted in an energy shortage of significant proportions. Supply regulates demand - which is why rising energy costs not only burden the running costs of private households, but also exacerbate the cost pressure on healthcare providers. For example, at the Universitair Ziekenhuis in Brussels, their gas and electricity bill has doubled in two years.<sup>2</sup></p><p>They need to find ways of saving energy on an ad hoc basis, but also in the long term. The good thing is that, as well as lowering costs, every kilowatt hour saved also reduces emissions.</p><p>Radiology accounts for about 7.5 percent of a hospital’s total energy consumption.<sup>3</sup> This is because the large imaging devices, such as MRI and CT scanners, consume a lot of energy. Even so, various levers exist that can increase energy efficiency.</p>
Opportunities to reduce energy consumption in radiology
<p>Hospital operators, however, often struggle to identify the potential for optimization and savings. This is because they lack sufficient data about their energy consumption, and they lack options for evaluating it. This is where digitalization can make a far-reaching contribution to sustainability in healthcare in the future. In combination with artificial intelligence, digitalization will make it possible to collect and evaluate information and optimize processes. In the case of radiology, the aim is to collect data on system use. This data can then be analyzed with the help of a <a href="https://www.siemens-healthineers.com/digital-health-solutions/digital-solutions-overview/service-line-managment-solutions/teamplay/teamplay-performance-management-applications/teamplay-insights" target="_blank">tool</a> to optimize the use of resources by identifying unnecessary idle times, but also to draw comparisons with the benchmark to see how far examinations could be shortened without sacrificing quality. This will help save both energy and emissions.</p>


Yet saving energy is just one part of the solution. To be resilient, healthcare providers need a holistic approach. The great opportunities lie in being able to tackle several challenges at once through specific measures. In the future, the total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis for new investments will probably also consider sustainability criteria, such as the use of renewable energies. For example, if hospital operators invest in a self-sufficient energy system or purchase decentralized renewable energies, this will stabilize their long-term costs and reduce their emissions and their dependence on energy supplies.<sup>4</sup>
<p>Another lever is to increase the focus on the circular economy. This is about striking a balance between economic development and resource conservation. It limits the use of primary raw materials to an unavoidable minimum and stretches product lifecycles to keep resources in circulation as long as possible. When a product or component reaches the end of its cycle, this simultaneously marks the beginning of a new cycle.</p><p>For a radiology department, circularity is about investing in systems whose lifecycles can be significantly extended through updates and upgrades. Another option is to purchase refurbished systems. These have the advantage of being both cost- and resource-efficient. This lowers the CO2 footprint of the entire product and thus the emissions balance of the hospitals.</p>
Healthcare providers are facing a big transformation. Through holistic concepts, innovation, and strong partnerships, they can succeed in becoming resilient, resource-efficient organizations.

By Julia Donhauser-Bach
Julia Donhauser-Bach is an editor at Siemens Healthineers.