Last year’s event, The UK MedTech Innovation Assembly, was one to remember. It brought together experts from all facets of the MedTech scene to collaborate and discuss emerging topics in the sector. One hot topic for discussion, like with many industries, was sustainability.
To lead this discussion, we brought together experts from the field who are viewing the sustainability mission from different angles. From designing MedTech to be less carbon-intensive and implementing green practices in healthcare institutions to how to support MedTech providers on their journey to becoming more sustainable.
The MedTech Sustainable Pioneers
The panel included:
- Rich Shaw – Commercial and Sustainability Lead at Pd-m
- Ben Tongue – Director & Sustainability Lead at Greener NHS
- Adam Levick – International Marketing Manager at Surgical Innovations
- Ian Menneer – CEO at SageTech
- Matt Cooling – Director and Strategic Sustainability Consultant at ThinkSustain
Chaired by: Alexis Percival – Environmental & Sustainability Manager at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Below we explore the key insight that was derived from the panel on the day.
The Sustainability Challenge Ahead
The climate and health are so inextricably linked – minimising negative impacts on the environment and leveraging opportunities to improve it benefit the health and well-being of current and future generations.
However, current health systems around the globe have a considerable environmental impact. In England, the NHS accounts for 4% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. But in October 2020, the NHS became the world’s first health service to commit to reaching carbon net zero. To assist this journey, there must be major shifts in how the NHS operates considering practices, the equipment it procures, and the technologies it can leverage.
Areas for Improvement
The first question posed to the panel was ‘what is an area for improvement that needs to be addressed?’, to which the panel responded:
“Sustainable software development is a burning area” – Ben Tongue
Ben introduced an interesting area that is often overlooked – sustainable software development. The software industry is responsible for around 3% of global carbon emissions, which is very close to that of the aviation industry. Software requires energy to run and thereby produces emissions, and the more functions that become digitalised, the greater the strain on servers becomes.
Matt explained that taking it back to the beginning is crucial.
“We can’t reduce what you can’t measure, and this becomes especially important when you need to know where to focus. I would also like to see material passports. When you buy something, you get the carbon liability.” – Matt Cooling
When looking to begin a sustainable journey, you need to first understand where the problem areas are. Companies should consider undergoing in-depth assessments to find the metrics they need to transition to a greener future.
Next, up Ian described the immense issue of anaesthetic gases in hospitals as a key area that needs to be addressed.
“95% of all anaesthetic is lost – it’s amazing what ingenuity is there to address problems and we need to harness this innovation”.
Rich followed by explaining the need for manufacturers supplying the NHS to adapt their solutions to be less carbon-intensive, considering the full product lifecycle.
Challenges Impending Sustainable Transformation
To consider the other side, Alexis posed a question surrounding the challenges that the panellists faced when looking to pursue sustainable journeys.
“Collaboration is great, but it doesn’t go far enough!” – Matt Cooling
This was echoed by Ian who said, “What we did in Covid was incredible and we said we would continue this way but unfortunately this has largely fallen through now – we need to harness this collaboration again”.
Rich stated the need for regulations and a plan for end-of-life to be communicated to all suppliers to build consistent standards amongst those in the industry.
“We need more visibility over what end-of-life looks like – a roadmap would be helpful.”
As the healthcare industry transitions to a greener future, it will be faced with many challenges alongside many opportunities. The move will be driven by those innovators who are looking to implement new practices, tackle the status quo, and introduce new green technologies that will minimise the impact of healthcare operations.
This is just a glimpse of the insight that was gained from the day, and we can expect to have another engaging discussion around sustainability at our upcoming MIA 2024. If you are interested in exploring more about last year’s MIA event, read more panel content, then register your interest below!