Skip to main content
Home » Supporting the NHS » Using digital technology to improve patient health — and the planet’s health

Chris Taylor

Sustainability Lead, Philips UK and Ireland

Discover the pivotal link between planetary and human health. Learn how digitalised care can empower patients and safeguard our planet’s future.

Healthcare contributes 4.4% of global CO2 emissions. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, says Chris Taylor, Sustainability Lead, Philips UK and Ireland — until you realise it means everything, from CT scans to anaesthesia, it’s creating a bigger carbon footprint than the likes of aviation (approximately 2%) and shipping (approximately 3%).

Healthcare emissions harming human health

If the healthcare sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter on the planet. There’s an intrinsic link between the growth of carbon emissions and deterioration in human health. “There are warnings about extreme heat in the summer and how increased temperatures enable the migration of pathogens,” explains Taylor. “Meanwhile, clean air studies show the negative impact that air pollution can have on human health.”

The World Health Organization predicts the climate crisis will lead to 250,000 additional deaths from conditions such as malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress between 2030 and 2050. So, everyone, from health and climate leaders to healthcare partners and clinicians, must create more sustainable patient pathways caring for both people and the planet.

A hospital will produce 2.5 times more
CO2 gases than commercial buildings.

How technology makes healthcare more sustainable

The most energy-intensive areas of health services include supply chains and hospital buildings. “A hospital will produce 2.5 times more CO2 gases than commercial buildings,” says Taylor. Our NHS is now challenged with using fewer raw materials, moving from capital purchases and embracing the circular economy.

Another universal concern is the carbon footprint caused by patient and clinician travel. “Digitalised — or connected — care is key,” adds Taylor. “With the latest technology, senior physicians can support junior staff remotely by using native digital systems while telehealth growth will see patients monitored and attended in their homes via wearable devices.

“Digital innovation delivering better patient outcomes by reducing travel and lowering carbon emissions is a win.” As AI becomes more commonly utilised and designed to support clinicians, opportunities to improve care will only increase.

Immediate action required for sustainability

For the UK to reach net zero targets, immediate action is necessary in healthcare to foster sustainability and empower patients. Collaboration among NHS stakeholders — including NHS Foundation Trusts, suppliers, associations and community groups — is vital for finding solutions and sharing best practices.

At Philips, we’re vocalising this need for sustainable change through our newly launched Care Means the World platform. “It’s in all our interests to work together to transform care models and lower carbon emissions, for a future that cares for people and the planet without compromise,” insists Taylor.

Next article