In virtually every industry, advances in technology are causing change to happen. Adjusting to and adopting those changes is the inevitable path for any organization that does not want to become archaic and that is committed to remaining competitive in the modern marketplace.
However, in a lot of ways, health care has trailed behind other industries in terms of implementing the kinds technology and resources than could potentially give it a green foot forward.
As Bernard Marr wrote for Forbes, “A staggering 80% of medical and clinical information about patients is formed of unstructured data, such as written physician notes, consultant notes, radiology notes, pathology results, discharge notes from a hospital, etc.” It’s clearly often inefficient.
The health care industry has just recently begun to make serious adjustments to how they operate. Beyond the quality of care that patients receive when smart technologies are implemented, the other important thing to note is that as health care does make serious strides forward, a natural consequence of that is that it will also become more environmentally friendly.
Smart Technology Naturally Supports Sustainability
Looking at the evolution of sustainability, one of the primary components that brings it into the public's consciousness is simple awareness. Things like Earth Day and the Clean Air Act, which were both introduced in the 1970s, were instrumental in making sustainability a familiar concept to the layperson.
Modern industries understand that one of the pillars of remaining relatable and desirable is by appealing to the consumer demand to be eco-friendly. Even in health care, which is a necessity, consumers have choices.
Example: Wearable Devices
One way we have become greener overall in health care is by allowing wearable devices to collect and distribute health-related information. Wearable devices have increasingly become responsible for allowing health care providers to access timely information, in numbers that they say allow them to promote healthy lifestyles for their patients.
Wearables aren’t perfect; they’re not being produced in the best low-environmental-impact factories. However, there is a push to make them more sustainable and eco-friendly in and of themselves. Additionally, they do cut down the material, production, and transport necessary for more traditional means of monitoring health.
Big Data is Changing the Industry and the Environment
Big data essentially refers to the way in which we can now collect, store, and analyze massive amounts of information. This means that for those who are looking for causes and effects, and solutions to some of the primary issues surrounding health, they have access to far more information than they previously did.
We recently overviewed China’s air pollution problem, and that provides a meaningful example of how data, technology, and the environment can all interact with each other.
The data coming out of China is what has clarified the situation; it is what allows us all to agree that their pollution is detrimental to their environment and their people. Because of the data, the World Health Organization was able to conclude that in one year alone, 1 million people died due to the pollution. China’s pollution problem became a public health emergency.
The health care experts at Duquesne University have pointed out, “With cloud-based storage, health care organizations have access to real-time information.”
Can you imagine a world where the impact of pollution can be monitored in real time, instead of after the fact? This obviously doesn’t come without risks. The health care industry will have to recognize the major data security risks, like every other industry. But, it does clarify the importance of utilizing every possible advantage available.
Making Tech Greener
At the beginning of the year, The Guardian's Laura Parker wrote that it was innovations that ultimately shaped sustainability in 2016. New technology is what has kept us moving towards a better future for ourselves and our world.
The Washington Post reports, “Some scientists and designers have turned to the power of innovative technology to raise awareness and save lives with the help of wearable pollution sensors.” Again, it’s news that points to a future where the calamity in China doesn’t have to happen again.
In hospitals specifically, too, there are changes happening that make it clear the industry is recognizing that more can and should be done on behalf of the environment. Whether it be by reducing their carbon footprint by using electronic document scanning and storage, or by producing their own local, organic food in sustainable ways for patients, there is evidence that change is happening.
Day by day, thanks largely to big data and innovative tech, the healthcare industry takes on a different presence in the world, and as it does it becomes more effective at fulfilling its role within society. Ultimately paying attention to and doing things on behalf of our environment also means you’re doing more for patients.