Climate change is a persistent and important issue globally. Many countries and companies are trying their best to implement policies that will combat the rapid warming of the earth, but some industries are doing better than others. The medical device industry has been slow to change its sustainability practices, largely due to the strict regulations it faces. Risk and quality management standards are often uncompromising due to the nature of the products, as changes cannot be made at the expense of the population’s health.
However, according to a recent poll by GlobalData, despite the challenges the industry faces, the medical device field is not doing enough to be more environmentally sustainable. When asked if the industry was doing enough, 58% of respondents said no, and 42% said yes. While the medical device industry faces stringent regulations, especially in comparison to other industries, medical device companies and the healthcare industry as a whole should still be environmentally conscious where possible.
There are many ways that medical device companies could improve their environmental sustainability practices, beginning with the reduction of waste. Healthcare facilities generate a lot of waste through disposable devices, such as sharps, trace chemotherapy, and pathological waste. The use of single use products has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has greatly increased the use of products like masks and gloves.
Hospitals also have the highest energy intensity of any publicly funded building, so if they were to switch to renewable energy, they could have a significant impact. Additionally, the use of digital health could help companies with their sustainability goals. Digital health tools allow healthcare practitioners to continue providing health care to patients, maximizing value while minimizing resources. The use of digital health tools such as telehealth also helps to prevent healthcare related travel, thus restricting CO2 emissions. Similarly, cloud services can contribute to good sustainability practices by saving the materials needed for on-site hardware, which also can help reduce CO2 emissions.
While the general consensus is that the medical device industry is not doing enough to be more environmentally sustainable, some companies are implementing different measures to try to reduce their CO2 emissions. For example, Philips has recently created an EcoDesign program, the goal of which is to reduce the total environmental impact from the start of the innovation and design process. Philips plans to improve the energy efficiency of their products, use less resources and more recycled content, avoid the use of hazardous substances, design for circularity, and make their packaging easy to recycle and reuse.
If more companies in the medical device industry are able to develop similar programs to Philips’ EcoDesign program, the medical device CO2 emissions could potentially be reduced. Environmental sustainability is becoming more significant every day, and medical device companies need to act soon to reduce waste and CO2 emissions.