Using Digital to Avoid the Next Healthcare Crisis

The following is a guest article by Ben Winfield from Atos.

We had long been warned about the global impacts a contagious virus could bring, yet when it came, we still seemed unprepared. With stark warnings also being proclaimed regarding climate change, we must listen and take action to combat the devastating impacts it could have on human health should it remain unaddressed. Digital can be a tool to drive decarbonization.

One of the biggest misconceptions about climate change is that it is a problem for tomorrow. However, the reality is that its impacts are already taking effect. Water availability is becoming less predictable while an increased potential of flooding threatens human life. Air pollution is already causing over 4.2 million deaths every year across the globe and it’s estimated that a staggering 92% of individuals live in areas that exceed the air pollution guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

But the warnings still exist because the impact could be so much worse. 100 million people could be dragged back into extreme poverty, which is why it isn’t surprising that an additional 250,000 deaths per year are expected due to climate change by 2030. As with all negative events, there is a cost associated with it. The cost to the healthcare industry alone because of direct damages to human health would be between $2 billion-$4 billion annually by 2030.

The impacts of climate change could cause the next global healthcare crisis

Thankfully, the world is waking up and taking action to mitigate these potential health threats through decarbonization. The Paris Climate Change Agreement brought climate change to the forefront of governmental issues in 2015 while the 13th UN Sustainable Development Goal is to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” This compels governments around the world to make plans to meet this mandate, but it is widely recognized that action in the private sector is needed to achieve lasting change.

The healthcare market is facing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint as it makes up 4.4% of global emissions. If healthcare was a country, it would be the fifth-largest carbon emitter in the world! This is leading to aggressive decarbonization goals in the industry with one provider announcing plans to be net-zero by 2040. It’s expected that other healthcare providers will follow suit by driving to decarbonize.

A study of over 1,000 individuals showed that 96% of consumers think that their personal decisions make an impact on the world, meaning they are beginning to seek more environmentally-friendly options in their life. This is very relevant to the payer market where consumers have choices, but even more relevant as corporations will have to choose green providers if they wish to meet their own sustainability goals.

Finally, the Life Science industry needs to take action as potential investors look for sustainable opportunities to ‘green’ their portfolios. Improved procurement functions will also add more weight to the sustainability considerations prevalent in current RFPs (Request For Proposals). It is sometimes difficult for us to see the carbon impact of products, but as an example, a single inhaler can have the same carbon impact as a 180-mile car journey.

Decarbonizing your digital can be a strong driver in reducing your footprint

Energy makes up 40% of the emissions from the healthcare industry while the development and production of goods are extremely energy intensive. This is partly why the pharmaceutical industry has a higher carbon intensity than the automotive industry. Telemedicine can help drive down the number of site visits and reduce travel, while data centers being hosted at efficient locations and the creation of Green Factories are all digital solutions that can help drive down energy.

With single-use products vital in the fight against COVID, it emphasizes the impact of waste as a polluter. Every product that is not a success results in additional costs and wasted carbon emissions. Through utilizing solutions like digital twins, we can improve the yield of production, meaning we can create more with less and use solutions like SMART Clinical Trials to help improve the completion rate of the trials.

The impact of an organization’s IT on climate change is often underestimated. One study has shown that digital, including video streaming, accounts for 4% of global emissions. However, while contributing to emissions output, digital also has the power to reduce emissions by 15%. For this reason, we must look at how digital can help us decarbonize and avoid the next healthcare crisis.

About Ben Winfield

Ben Winfield is the leader for Decarbonization in Atos’ Healthcare & Life Science industry. With a background in business operations, governance and innovation, he is a co-founder of the Atos Green Network which aims to bring together like-minded individuals and raise awareness on the impacts of climate change. Ben has a degree in Business Economics and enjoys the outdoors and visiting new places.

About Atos
Atos is a global leader in digital transformation with 120,000 employees in 73 countries and annual revenue of € 11 billion. Atos Positioned as a Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Center Outsourcing, Hybrid Infrastructure Managed Services, Managed Workplace services, Cloud, Cybersecurity and High-Performance Computing, for Both Europe and North America, the Group provides end-to-end Orchestrated Hybrid Cloud, Big Data, Business Applications and Digital Workplace solutions through its Digital Transformation Factory.

Atos has completed one of the world’s largest hybrid migration and is a leader in hybrid orchestrated cloud for third year in a row according to Gartner Magic Quadrant.

The Atos healthcare business has a vast set of core competencies including a dedicated EHR team with a tremendous amount of experience with Epic and clinical data. This is complimented by the Atos Scientific Community, a global network of 150 scientists, engineers, and industry experts, playing an integral role in defining the solutions, products and innovation we bring to the market.

Atos is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.