Vol. 3 No. 4 (2023)
Horizon Scans

Reducing the Environmental Impact of Clinical Care

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Published April 19, 2023

Key Messages

  • This report summarizes emerging activities that aim to improve the environmental sustainability of clinical care and help mitigate climate change. It signals to decision-makers opportunities to reduce health care’s environmental impact, including ensuring the appropriate use of health care, reducing unnecessary health care, and rethinking and researching what and how health care is provided.
  • This report describes initiatives identified in the literature across areas of health care, including operating rooms and surgical services, anesthetics services, dialysis, virtual care, and single-use medical supplies, among others, which are emerging to address environmental sustainability and climate change.
  • The impact of health care on the environment and climate is significant. Many health systems, health facilities, and health care providers are working to reduce the environmental impact of clinical care. Striving to create environmentally sustainable health systems through activities such as the appropriate use of metered dose inhalers can achieve multiple goals, including cost savings, improving patient care, and reducing the environmental impact of care.
  • Challenges such as the lack of data on the environmental impact of clinical interventions and devices remain. However, there are opportunities for engaging health care leadership, staff, and patients to develop and implement changes to make health care more environmentally sustainable. In the future, there may be greater opportunities to consider evidence on environmental impact alongside clinical and economic evidence, patient perspectives, social values, and ethics to support the delivery of clinically effective, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable care.