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The healthcare sector is an enormous source of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it is responsible for 4.4% of net emissions globally .
Some of this is generated directly from healthcare facilities, but more than 70% of healthcare emissions are generated in the supply chain, including the manufacture and disposal of medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
When looking across the supply chain and direct provision of care, more than half of all emissions are derived from energy utilisation (e.g. electricity and gas use).
Waste is another contributor. Hospitals in the US alone produce approximately 5 million tons of waste every year , and even where recycling or reprocessing programs are in place, there are many barriers that mean eligible waste is still not being disposed of sustainably.
Disposable and single-use devices (SUDs) have become more popular with efforts to reduce hospital-acquired infections and the growth of value-based healthcare, despite limited evidence to suggest SUDs reduce infections .
Although these devices and their components make up around 90% of all waste derived from medical devices , environmental arguments for and against the use of disposable devices are not that simple.
Disposable devices produce huge amounts of waste, and significantly contribute to the depletion of natural resources and the release of harmful emissions .
However, studies have shown that high levels of energy consumption from sterilisation can result in reusable devices with a higher carbon footprint than their disposable equivalent [5, 6], and certain sterilisation substances can be damaging to the environment themselves, requiring specialised disposal .
At IDR Medical, we regularly speak to healthcare workers and financial stakeholders about the impact of sustainability on their purchase decisions as part of healthcare and pharmaceutical market research.
While some facilities do consider this very important, for most, concerns surrounding infection prevention and clinical outcomes are the deciding factor.
However, sufficiently sustainable options that also adequately meet clinical needs are in short supply, and with sustainability an increasingly important topic across all sectors, there is a growing space for medical devices that can meet both demands.
By working on sustainability initiatives now, medical device manufacturers could put themselves in a good position to protect future sales with a competitive advantage, improve their brand appeal and meet corporate social responsibilities, as well as benefit from long-term cost savings.
Below we have detailed 3 areas where vendors can be leaders in the transition to more sustainable healthcare:
Strategies employed by manufacturers to reduce inefficiencies in the supply chain:
Strategies that could be employed to improve the sustainability of medical devices:
The benefits for the vendor are primarily the opportunity to sell to more customers who will commit to long-term contracts. It also ensures a stable and predictable source of income, and a competitive advantage over other vendors. This model nicely complements the strategies outlined in point 2.
As conversations around sustainability become more significant in the healthcare sphere, partnering with vendors who can offer truly sustainable products will become more important.
With over 12 years of market expertise, IDR Medical can advise you in selecting the best markets, respondents and methodologies for your sustainability healthcare and pharmaceutical market research based on your interests, products and capabilities.
To find out more about how we can help your business understand future sustainability needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.