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Aust Health Rev. 2018 May 7. doi: 10.1071/AH17184. [Epub ahead of print]

Healthcare in a carbon-constrained world.


Objective The climate crisis necessitates urgent decarbonisation. The health sector must address its large carbon footprint. In the present study, we sought healthcare thought leaders' views about a future environmentally sustainable health system.Methods The present study was a qualitative exploratory study consisting of semistructured, in-depth interviews with 15 healthcare thought leaders from Australia, the UK, the US and New Zealand. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed and analysed by matrix display and thematic analysis.Results Overall, healthcare thought leaders believe that to reduce the carbon footprint of healthcare we need to look beyond traditional 'green' initiatives towards a more fundamental and longer-term redesign. Five main themes and one 'key enabler' (information communication technology) were identified. In this paper we draw on other relevant findings, but chiefly focus on the fifth theme about reshaping the role of healthcare within society and using the size and influence of the health sector to leverage wider health, environmental and societal benefits.Conclusions These ideas represent potentially low-carbon models of care. The next step would be to pilot and measure the outcomes (health, environmental, financial) of these models.What is known about the topic? The health sector needs to reduce its large carbon footprint. Traditional 'green' initiatives, such as recycling and improving energy efficiency, are insufficient to achieve the scale of decarbonisation required.What does this paper add? Healthcare thought leaders surveyed in the present study suggested that we also consider other, non-traditional ways to achieve environmental sustainability. In this paper we discuss their ideas about adopting an anticipatory approach to healthcare using predictive analytics, and using the size and influence of the health sector to effect wider health and environmental benefits.What are the implications for practitioners? Achieving an environmentally sustainable healthcare system is likely to require broad and fundamental (i.e. transformational) change to the current service model. Health practitioners throughout the sector must be closely engaged in this process.


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