Healthcare is crucial to everyday life—it is a fundamental aspect of our society that allows a greater quality of life. We often hear people saying that health is wealth, but is the healthcare industry doing justice to the environment? The healthcare industry generates preventable waste that is hazardous to the environment on a daily basis, much of which is unforeseen globally. I’ve prepared a list of 6 ways we can work together to achieve health and wealth for our environment.
- Switch to digital medical health records
An infinite amount of paperwork is used each year within hospitals and healthcare facilities. When I was younger, my mother used to work as an RN within the community, and the stacks of paperwork she would complete would be endless. At the end of each year, she would be left with extra documents that would require disposal and could not be reused. Much of that paper waste could’ve been prevented if community workers were given digital devices to complete all paperwork and health records. Many hospitals and facilities are starting to switch to digital health records with which we can sustain a greener environment.
- Safe disposal of healthcare wastes
According to the WHO, approximately 16 billion injections are improperly disposed of after medical use. Incinerating medical waste can also result in the emission of dioxins and furans, which are extremely polluting to the environment. Taking measures to ensure safe waste disposal can help prevent many adverse environmental impacts such as chemical release and biological hazards. Safe disposal can help protect the health of not only patients and health workers but also the general public.
- Invest in local food sustainability
By sourcing food locally, healthcare facilities can cut down significantly on the pollution produced from transport. Sourcing food locally can also result in greater patient health because of the need for less preservatives and fresher produce with limited exposure to pollutants.
- Raise patient awareness
It is very important to educate patients and staff on the importance of being environmentally friendly. Discourage patients and visitors from producing unnecessary waste and properly dispose of the resources they are provided in the healthcare environment. Provide hospital staff and visitors the resources they need to dispose of items appropriately, such as biohazardous waste and recycling bins at safe and optimal use locations.
- Food digesters to minimize food waste
Hospitals produce a lot of food waste each year that can be disposed in a more environmentally friendly manner. Using natural food digesters can help breakdown food more effectively and prevent the compilation of food waste into landfill sites.
- Video conferences over the face-to-face meetings unless necessary
During the times of COVID-19, much of our world has become accustomed to virtual approaches in many realms, including healthcare. Although face-to-face visits are important in many settings and provide comfort and confidentiality, using video conferences for simple meetings and discussions can help us maintain a greener environment by decreasing air pollution in commute. If the commute is necessary, encourage patients and staff to carpool if necessary.
These are just some of the many ways we can encourage healthcare to be more sustainable. What are some things you practice to maintain a sustainable environment both within and outside the healthcare industry?