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Sustainable healthcare technology

Summary

NHS Digital is committed to making sure environmental and social sustainability is core to the design of new healthcare technology.

Without it, there's a real risk of negative impacts affecting the energy and material footprint of the healthcare system.

Community of interest

The Sustainable Healthcare Technology programme is now partnering with suppliers and healthcare providers. The aim is to set up a community of interest, working towards a shared goal to improve sustainability. This work will enable the health and care system to achieve:

  • reduced ICT emissions
  • realise cost savings
  • improve health outcomes

To collaborate with us and help shape the way healthcare technology is designed, please join our community of interest. Get in touch today and find out more.

Email: sustainability.team@nhs.net 

The 4 challenges

Check out these examples of best practice. See how other organisations are addressing sustainability challenges in the tech environment.

Tech foot-printing

Do you know the environmental impact of your technology assets? ICT footprint shares success stories from other global organisations.

Procurement

Are you making sure you are buying sustainable technology? Learn about BT's 3:1 project and its ambition to help its customers cut their carbon emissions. 

Enabled savings

Does your technology lead to wider sustainability improvements in relation to travel, estate reductions or going paperless for example? 

The Green ICT workbook supports the 'Greening Government ICT Strategy'. It helps government departments to transform the ICT landscape to create a more productive, flexible workforce that delivers digital public services in a much more cost-effective way.

Data

Global data use is growing exponentially. Are you considering data resolution, retention and value creation? Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s case study shows an example of how a trust can build a super-efficient facility. 

How to lower your impact

There are things you and your organisation can do right now to help reduce carbon emissions.

Choose the lowest energy device 

Encourage people to use lower energy consuming devices to view webpages. Smaller devices tend to use less energy than larger devices, for example: 

  • smartphone - 1 watt*
  • tablet - 5.5 watts*
  • laptop - 15 watts*
  • desktop computer - 77 watts*

 *Energy used is per webpage viewed

Switch off your devices when not in use

'Vampire energy', or standby power, is the energy consumed when a device is on standby, still plugged in and not fully shut down. 

You can minimise the energy loss by turning off your electronic equipment at source rather than leaving devices on standby. 

You can also save energy by adjusting the brightness of your screens according to the ambient lighting. Reducing screen brightness saves as much as 20% of energy used by an average computer screen. 

Spring clean your data storage

Data use is growing exponentially, doubling every 2 years (Inside Big Data, 2017), needing more infrastructure to store it. There is a need to review whether we need all the data we have accumulated, and how long we need to keep it for. 

Cleaning up, archiving, compressing or deleting files can reduce the amount of storage space needed. Consider an annual ‘spring clean’ of your files and data, by removing unused or unnecessarily large files on your devices. 

Go fully digital to increase your digital collaboration

Using digital tools such as 'Skype for Business' to host meetings can reduce the need for travelling to meetings. On average, a 4 hour return train journey emits as much as 11.64kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person.

Whilst this may seem small, the numbers can add up quickly. Where there is potential for hosting meetings online, this should be considered as a priority to improve accessibility for those who cannot meet in person, reduce CO2 emissions, and reduce costs.

Go paperless

Going paperless not only reduces your environmental footprint but can improve your efficiency at work.

There are many applications and services which can enhance your productivity, organisation and increase your digital collaboration with your colleagues, without the need for print.

Use low resolution image and video files

Use the lowest resolution you can for large image and video files. Living in a world of exponential data growth, its management and reduction becomes a key issue as data use and storage equates directly to energy and material use.  

Image resolution has a huge impact on data requirements. In fact, for non-business internet, 80% of data transfer is online TV streaming. Watching a high definition (HD) movie at home often has a higher carbon footprint than a trip to the cinema.

This means a choice of standard resolution video streaming for the coming step change in smart phone GP appointments could have a huge sustainability impact.

Buy green energy and hardware

There is major variation in the sustainability credentials of electronics devices.  

A huge 80% of energy use in electronics such as smartphones and laptops is energy used to build devices during the manufacturing process.

Procurement teams, therefore, need to look at the entire process of creating these products, from material sourcing to manufacturing, from production to disposal. There are organisations that can help us understand the scale of these impacts, whilst highlighting the good practices of technology companies. 

The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics is a useful resource to start understanding this issue in more detail and accreditations such as TCO Certified also apply.

Cloud storage first

Cloud storage facilities typically try to use server space and power in the most efficient ways possible (Government Digital Service, 2018).

Cloud storage providers have been evaluated based on energy mixes used to power their data servers.

Use Greenpeace's Click Clean tool to find out which cloud-based server offers efficiency in cloud providers.

Resources to find out more

Government Digital Service (GDS) Technology Code of Practice

The Technology Code of Practice is a set of criteria to help government design, build and buy better technology. It is used as a cross-government agreed standard as part of the spend control process.

Green government ICT case studies

These case studies relate to the ‘Greening Government ICT Strategy’, which was published in 2011. They show the environment and approaches needed to transform the ICT landscape to create a more productive, flexible workforce that delivers digital public services in a much more cost-effective way.

NHS sustainability day campaign

Find out what the NHS is doing to support Sustainability Day 2019.

Campaign posters

The following posters are available to download:

Easy on the eyes, easier on the planet

Encouraging user to turn the brightness down on their monitors.

How energy hungry is your technology?

Highlights the energy usage of different devices.

Greening Digital survey

NHS Digital is inviting input and expertise from health IT professionals to better understand how we may take this work forward.  

Take part in the survey

How long it will take

The survey should only take you around 10 minutes to complete.

Who should complete it

It should be completed on behalf of your organisation by your relevant Chief Information Officer, Chief Clinical Information Officer, ICT lead or the manager with delegated authority for leading on sustainability at your Trust - if this is not you, please pass it on to the relevant person. 

Findings

Findings will help inform a wider NHS Digital and NHS England ‘Greening Digital’ project which will consider how sustainability can be built into digital and technology projects at a local and national level.

Contact us

Last edited: 15 March 2019 4:41 pm