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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Cardiologists’ choices of medical technology and diagnostics to drive sustainability efforts

Health Industry Hub | June 5, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: In a new systemic review, medical professionals in the field of cardiology have unveiled solutions to combatting climate change: making small, low-cost changes in their practices. The study sheds light on the enormous potential to effectively reduce the environmental impact of cardiac care while maintaining the highest quality of healthcare in Australia. Remarkably, the review discovered that steps taken to reduce carbon emissions often resulted in cost savings as well.

The comprehensive review led by Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney has uncovered a range of innovative measures that could revolutionise the sector. One significant finding is that the choice of medical technology used during heart examinations can make a substantial difference. For instance, the study revealed that cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) generates a much larger carbon footprint compared to echocardiography (ultrasounds). By opting for the latter whenever clinically appropriate, cardiologists can significantly lower emissions.

The review’s lead author, Professor Alexandra Barratt who is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, passionately advocated for minimising the environmental impact of healthcare. She emphasised the scale of the problem, stating, “If global healthcare was a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. It is essential we minimise the environmental impacts of healthcare as much as possible.”

Joining Professor Barratt in this crucial endeavour is the senior study author, Professor Christopher Semsarian AM. As the Head of the Centenary Institute’s Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology and a distinguished cardiologist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Professor Semsarian recognises the urgency of addressing climate-related threats. He insisted that the environmental footprint of cardiovascular healthcare must be thoroughly scrutinised.

“While the healthcare sector is vital to human health and wellbeing, it also has a significant carbon footprint, contributing 4% to 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This warrants further attention,” Professor Semsarian stressed.

The review not only highlighted the impact of cardiology practice on the environment but also identified actionable measures to make the field more sustainable. Among the recommendations put forth by the researchers are simple, low-cost interventions like quality improvement programs. These initiatives aim to reduce the ordering of unnecessary blood tests and limit the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) where appropriate. Reducing unnecessary prescriptions for cardiovascular drugs and the significance of effective primary care management in preventing the progression of type 2 diabetes was also noted.

Additionally, the study revealed that small changes in operating theatres can significantly reduce waste. For instance, meticulous waste disposal practices can be implemented, such as rinsing and safely discarding bypass circuits (tubes connecting the patient to a heart monitoring machine) in normal waste disposal instead of medically regulated waste incineration. These conscientious adjustments will not only decrease the carbon footprint but also promote a more eco-friendly approach within cardiology.

Professor Barratt reiterated the urgency of taking action. She said “It is essential we minimise the environmental impacts of healthcare as much as possible. Medical professionals can make a difference by making small adjustments to how we practice medicine, particularly by reducing low-value care, such as unnecessary tests.”

However, achieving a truly sustainable healthcare system requires a comprehensive approach. Professor Barratt stressed the importance of measuring the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of specific healthcare practices. She asserted that this knowledge gap must be addressed to identify areas for improvement and inform doctors and patients about safe and effective changes.

The authors of the study insisted that further research is necessary to explore the environmental impact of various aspects of cardiology practice. This included developing strategies to decrease the carbon footprint and determining the most effective methods for educating and raising awareness among cardiologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals about the environmental effects of cardiovascular healthcare.

The urgency to address climate change has never been greater, and the involvement of healthcare professionals in this global effort is a significant step forward. By embracing sustainable practices and making conscious choices, cardiologists are proving that even small adjustments can have a profound impact on the planet’s health.

As the world looks toward a more sustainable future, the collaboration between medical professionals, researchers, medical device companies, diagnostics companies and policymakers becomes increasingly vital. By working together, they can pioneer innovative solutions, educate others, and create a healthcare system that not only saves lives but also protects the environment.

In reimagining healthcare across the entire patient journey, Health Industry HubTM is the only one-stop-hub bringing the diversity of Pharma, MedTech, Diagnostics & Biotech sectors together to inspire meaningful change.

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