How the US healthcare system can tackle its sustainability problem

If the U.S. healthcare system was its own country, it would be the seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the world, according to Adam Robinson, director of field operations for Cardinal Health.


Speaking at a session of the 10th annual Becker's Hospital Review annual meeting earlier this month, Mr. Robinson discussed how medical waste and carbon emissions affect the environment through the lens of Cardinal's work with device company Medtronic in supporting the logistics of its device sustainability program.

"One of the largest opportunities to change the course of environmental stewardship in the U.S. is to change what we're doing in the U.S. when delivering healthcare," Mr. Robinson said.

1. The case for change in sustainability. The U.S. healthcare system since the 1980s has been moving from reusing medical devices to disponible ones for infection control purposes. U.S. hospitals spend $6 million to send 6,000 tons of medical waste to landfills every day, Mr. Robinson said.

2. A potential solution to the healthcare sustainability problem. Companies like Medtronic invest in programs that take devices post-patient use and extend the life of the devices through FDA-approved single-use device manufacturing programs. Roughly 7 million devices sold last year were either remanufactured or reprocessed. Medtronic's reprocessed devices undergo the same rigorous quality testing as new devices.

3. The savings associated with sustainability. The U.S. healthcare system could save $540 million through reusing medical devices, Mr. Robinson said.

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