Potential for Environmental Sustainability in Medical Products used in Hospitals

Z

zarboki

#1
I am a 4th year Industrial Design Student currently writing a research dissertation entitled "Investigation of the potential for Environmental Sustainability in Medical Products used in Hospitals"
When I started looking into this topic I thought that there would be people investigating similar topics as this is an area that has great potential for improvement.
Unfortunately there does not seem to be much interest from industry bodies, which means very little has been published. Clearly the problems of cost and safety, particularly the perception of safety are significant barriers.
From what I have been able to gather even EU standards relating to medical products (WEEE & RoHS) will probably not come into force for a decade, if then.
The main area I have found real information on is Single Use Devices (SUDs) through the Health Care Without Harm website.
However if anyone knows of areas which have potential for improvement and particularly ones with source material I would very much appreciate it.
Thanks,
Michael
 
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Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#2
zarboki said:
I am a 4th year Industrial Design Student currently writing a research dissertation entitled "Investigation of the potential for Environmental Sustainability in Medical Products used in Hospitals"
When I started looking into this topic I thought that there would be people investigating similar topics as this is an area that has great potential for improvement.
Unfortunately there does not seem to be much interest from industry bodies, which means very little has been published. Clearly the problems of cost and safety, particularly the perception of safety are significant barriers.
From what I have been able to gather even EU standards relating to medical products (WEEE & RoHS) will probably not come into force for a decade, if then.
The main area I have found real information on is Single Use Devices (SUDs) through the Health Care Without Harm website.
However if anyone knows of areas which have potential for improvement and particularly ones with source material I would very much appreciate it.
Thanks,
Michael
I'm sorry I can't help you in this regard, but I'm curious as to what "environmental sustainability" means in this context.
 
Z

zarboki

#3
Environmental Sustainability

It basically refers to reducing the impact on the environment and making it ecologically friendly. I did not put just "sustainability" because when dealing with medical products this usually refers to financial sustainability, and I didn't put "environment" because that usually seems to refer to the working environment of the hospital etc.
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#4
Perhaps you can look into "H2E": "Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) is a national program that is ready to provide hospitals across the nation with the framework, tools, and resources they need to change their waste-disposal practices. With H2E's help, U.S. hospitals can become beacons of environmental sustainability and leadership instead of environmental polluters."

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3859/is_200311/ai_n9327230
 
Z

zarboki

#5
Thanks, I have had a look at the Hospitals For A Healthy Environment site along with Health Care Without Harm and CleanMed and have found potential in the reprocessing industry but Hospitals For A Healthy Environment seems to be more concerned with the way the buildings are designed or whether the hospital uses recycled paper for printing, or suggesting that hospitals shouldn't use things that contain mercury - reasonable foci, but ones which could be applied to many industries rather than specifically for hospitals.
If anyone knows about any regulations in the pipeline around the world that relate, or anyone who is investigating similar topics - Please let me know!
Michael
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#6
zarboki said:
It basically refers to reducing the impact on the environment and making it ecologically friendly.
The impact of what? Making what more ecologically friendly? If your're referring to the idea of hospitals being more environmentally responsible, perhaps you need to find a problem before you start looking for potential cures. If you think that hospitals should be more ecologically friendly, then you must have some evidence of unfriendliness. What are the issues? What are manufacturers and hospitals doing now? If they're not doing enough, why aren't they? How are hospitals different from other institutions in this regard?
 
Z

zarboki

#7
The aim of my research is to find and define a problem so that next semester I can work on a solution. I am having difficulties in working out what issues are the biggest problem/ have the best potential improvements.
As to the current situation: for example, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital [in Sydney, Australia, where I am based] (RPA), the amount of waste per occupied bed, per day was 5.84kg (1.27kg in clinical waste). This resulted in RPA spending AU$755,257 on waste disposal in 2001-02 just on external contractors (The Audit Office of New South Wales 2002).
The ADMR (Association of Medical Device Reprocessors) suggests that whilst the FDA does not require any device be labelled "single-use", "manufacturers [of medical products] frequently choose to label their products this way because they make more money if the hospital throws out each device after one use."
This has led to the development of the ADMR and over the last decade over 25 million devices have been reprocessed with "no evidence of increased risk to the patient". Alliance Medical projects that it will save its 700 hospital clients around US$50 million through reprocessing. Many devices can be reprocessed up to 6 times significantly reducing its Materials Impact Per unit of Service (MIPS). I still have to factor in the impact of reprocessing but it is likely to be less than creating new products.
This has shown that when environmental concerns also save money without compromising safety they can have large impacts on improving sustainability.
Another problem is interest from the deign community at large. Of the Australian Design Awards (judged by other designers) 21 entries for 2003/04 in the Medical/Scientific category 6 made mention of their environmental benefits. Three of these are so vague as to seem incidental e.g. “The VentrAssist™ has minimal impact on the environment”. The other three are a bit more substantial “Minimal use of materials, efficient use of power. designed for disassembly”. None of these won a Design Award. Similarly, of the 10 submissions for 2004/05 only 2 included their environmental impacts. One of them got a Design Award.
In contrast, a similar examination of the Consumer category for 2003/04 products showed 13 of the 27 entries mentioned their environmental impact with 6 of these significantly justifying their statements. Interestingly all 4 Design Award winners came from these groups, with 3 from the group that went into detail.
Basically I am trying to say that I have been looking, and defining the problem area but am just not having much success. The aim of this dissertation is to provide me with a brief for a major project next semester that has potential commercial value and should be the centrepiece of my portfolio to date. So I am not necessarily looking for other solutions so much as for other people who are looking for solutions. If that makes sense.
 
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