Step into healthcare sustainability with green IT

March 29, 20194 minute read

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Opportunities to get ahead of the game in healthcare IT don’t come around often, and healthcare sustainability initiatives may be the next industry-defining trend worth watching.

That said, green IT is nothing new. Healthcare has been seeing prediction lists for over a decade, and the industry is firmly invested in sustainable tactics, like data center outsourcing and collocation. Still, healthcare IT (HIT) leaders are sitting in front of an opportunity to bridge the remaining—and wide—gap between current sustainable IT usage and optimal usage.

To accomplish this, HIT professionals would benefit from understanding how existing initiatives happening across the industry are enabling positive developments for many organizations and communities globally.

Understand sustainability around the world

Healthcare sustainability kicked off in 2019 with an announcement from pharmaceutical leaders. GlaxoSmithKline (based in Britain), Teva (an Israeli multinational company), and Takeda (Asia’s largest pharma company) have partnered with a leading provider of sustainability risk and performance assessments for global supply chains to form the Responsible Health Initiative. The initiative leverages a proven model of collaboration that encourages sharing processes and best practices while facilitating understanding and taking advantage of “common tools” to improve sustainability across collective supply chains.

The World Health Organization has also put together a global action plan to accelerate progress toward worldwide sustainable development goals. The initiative includes 11 organizations around the world who have banded together to optimize sustainable impact in everyone’s lives and at all levels.

Dive into hospital sustainability

Hospitals are particularly incentivized to implement green computing and healthcare sustainability initiatives. Around the world, forces such as climate change legislation, public perception, and tightening budgets are driving hospitals to shift their decision-making toward greener solutions, rethink outdated approaches to planning and purchasing, and even adopt tech-centered conservation strategies.

In the United States, healthcare facilities stand out as large-scale consumers of energy. The US Department of Energy’s Hospital Energy Alliance estimates that the country’s hospitals rack up $8 billion in energy consumption each year—enough to foot the bill for the average salary of over 100,000 registered nurses.

Hospitals have a chance to become more sustainable while making a real impact on facility bottom lines and fiscal health. The industry has also been making strides toward supporting forward-thinking hospital leaders through programs, like RES-Hospitals in Europe and the Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals in the United States.

Strategic energy planning initiatives can enable comprehensive evaluations of organizations’ energy needs while encouraging forecasting of future needs and the identification of strategies to be implemented at the level of operational budgeting and capital planning—a scope that welcomes contributions from a sustainable computing perspective.

Leverage green IT like a true HIT professional

While IT might not be a central focus for some environmental healthcare sustainability programs, healthcare technology leaders still have ample opportunities to contribute and even lead the way with sustainability initiatives. These include:

  • Using power efficiently (e.g., implementing power-management software)

  • Reducing IT waste

  • Implementing sustainable printing initiatives

  • Encouraging telecommuting (and telemedicine)

  • Investing in server and storage virtualization and cloud-based services and applications

  • Partnering with sustainability-focused suppliers

  • Ensuring that cooling systems are running at maximum efficiency

IT professionals also have the opportunity to make changes in their organizations and incorporate environmentally conscious IT practices into professional development through Green IT courses and certifications, which can distinguish them as thought leaders who are in touch with the future of healthcare sustainability.

You can expect to see sustainability awareness become a baseline expectation for IT professionals as hospitals and healthcare organizations continue to seek out guidance and experience regarding practical applications of environmentally conscious IT strategies and solutions. With this knowledge in mind, you’ll be prepared to lead the way.

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