People working in medical settings who wish to be more sustainable face some limitations. Certain items such as gloves must be single-use for safety. However, modern technology makes it easier to make sustainable changes in these healthcare environments. Here are some actionable examples of how we can improve sustainability in medical centres and doctors’ offices.
How to Improve Sustainability in Doctors’ Offices and Hospitals
1. Use Smart Lighting and Thermostats
Doctors’ offices can waste energy when people leave lights on in unoccupied rooms or the heating turns too high before the practice opens. A good starting point is to start a staff education programme that explains how seemingly simple decisions can make energy bills unnecessarily high. Statistics suggest a successful energy-related awareness campaign could result in a 5% improvement in the office’s overall electricity consumption.
After teaching employees how small changes can make a big difference, doctors’ offices should consider investing in smart lights and thermostats. Employees can usually override those tech products, but they will be less likely to do so once they grasp the significance of energy-saving adjustments.
Consider setting the lights on a timer or using motion sensors to avoid excessive usage. A related change is to install energy-efficient bulbs. They will help keep energy bills low.
Select at least one staff member in the office to oversee the smart thermostat after installation. Explain to them how it works, including the steps for making changes through the accompanying app.
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2. Offer Digital Communications
Many of today’s families prefer online communications to paper-based ones. Whether a pediatrician’s office needs to send an appointment reminder or provide details about a new medication, such communications are often best handled through digital channels.
Then, the office saves on things like paper, printer ink, and pens. However, the office staff must remain mindful that not everyone likes to get communications through email and text messages. A good compromise is to add signage explaining that people are at a digital-first doctor’s office. That means they will get communications digitally by default but can receive physical versions by indicating a preference for them.
It is also useful to include an easily understood identifier, such as the office’s branding, in the emails and text messages distributed. That way, people will know they have received legitimate communications. Another tip is to use standardised language and formatting to encourage people to open the messages promptly rather than overlooking or ignoring them.
3. Encourage Doctors to Use e-Books and Journals
Most doctors’ offices have bookshelves containing drug reference manuals, diagnostic guides, and other books that help guide their patient care choices. Physicians must also be excellent storytellers to explain things to patients.
One sustainable option made possible by technology is to urge doctors to switch to electronic versions of books and journals when possible. That does not mean they must throw away all the physical books they own. That is not sustainable anyway, assuming they are still regularly using those titles.
However, they should consider looking for electronic versions rather than getting new books and subscribing to additional medical journals received through the mail. Understandably, some doctors prefer books they can hold in their hands and are unwilling to switch. In such cases, they can still make more sustainable choices by looking for secondhand versions of the titles they need or reading the journals at medical libraries instead of subscribing to them.
4. Migrate the Doctor’s Office to the Cloud
Cloud computing offers numerous benefits for a medical practice. They include better security, improved collaboration, and increased storage capacity, to name a few. Statistics also show organisations can achieve an 85% reduction in emissions and a 65% decrease in energy usage by switching to the cloud from an on-premises setup. The total cut in emissions can rise as high as 90% if organisations configure their apps to run in the cloud, too.
Moving to the cloud is a major undertaking, but it usually pays off for those who make that decision. Since most people in health care do not have extensive backgrounds in cloud computing, the practical approach is often to hire a service provider that can assess what the medical practice needs and the best ways to achieve those changes.
It is also important to remind staff members that a transition to the cloud need not happen all at once. Many organisations do it gradually, accelerating the changes as their budgets and available time allow. Setting aside ample time to get everyone used to working in the cloud is essential for helping people have a smooth transition.
Similarly, it is useful to choose a cloud provider that offers 24/7 technical support. Experiencing issues during or after the migration can be particularly problematic in fast-paced environments, such as medical offices. However, having an experienced person or team guide the organisation through the switch should lead to better results overall.
Technology Can Improve Sustainability in Doctor’s Offices
These examples show how doctors’ offices can use technology to stay relevant and improve their sustainability. Pursuing even one of them could result in significant short- and long-term gains that help people at medical organisations do what they can to support the planet’s future.
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