8. Circularity as a climate action strategy for healthcare providers
The combined burden of growing, aging populations and the rising incidence of chronic disease has created a huge need for sustainable models of care, which has been compounded by the energy crisis. Paradoxically, the world’s healthcare systems account for 4% of global CO₂ emissions , more than the aviation or shipping industries, while also generating excessive levels of waste. Sustainability-minded health leaders are increasingly looking to healthcare technology to help them break out of this destructive cycle.
In healthcare technology, ‘circular’ is widely associated with closing the loop on hardware. But the adoption of smart digital tools is also enabling health systems to ‘dematerialize’, delivering maximum value with minimum resources. For example, by supporting the shift from resource-intensive clinical facilities to networked lower-cost settings and the home. And the trend towards cloud-, service- and software-based solutions will save on the materials needed for on-site enterprise hardware and reduce CO₂ emissions, while further optimizing efficiency.
Similarly, usage- and outcome-based business models enable hospitals to access a system’s functionality ‘as a service’, without significant upfront capital expenditure, and support multiple reuse and recycling. What matters to hospitals is to be able to offer patients the best possible imaging and analytics to support precision diagnosis and personalized treatment – not owning scanner X, Y or Z.
The trend is clear: circular practices, such as designing for refurbishment, serviceability and upgradability, will become an integral part of the healthcare industry’s climate action toolbox. All the more so as circular innovation can also help hospitals address financial and budgetary constraints, as well as reduce their environmental footprint.