Health technology innovator Philips discusses how healthcare leaders can achieve financial and environmental sustainability through technology, preventive care, and strategic financing – enhancing patient outcomes while meeting NHS net zero targets and operational challenges

Healthcare leaders are tackling competing pressures to hit performance targets. These issues include workforce shortages, making capital budgets go as far as possible, reaching net zero targets and pressures from a growing and ageing population.

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However, meeting these challenges and being at the forefront of healthcare requires more and more operational expenses and innovative ways to obtain the technology needed to improve patient outcomes and lower the cost of care. As financial challenges increase, so does the need for services to be delivered in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

Interestingly, while there is a widespread understanding of the importance of sustainability – especially given the NHS’s net zero targets – when speaking with healthcare leaders we often find that they’re more reluctant to invest in it if they can’t see any obvious productivity savings.

But very often, improving the environmental sustainability of care delivery can bring financial savings and improvements to patient experience, addressing some of the challenges outlined above, which all can contribute to productivity.

Investing in prevention to drive productivity and sustainability

Preventing illness and disease is at the heart of the NHS long term plan, with many initiatives in place to help improve the population’s health and support people to take their own action. Prevention is key, as long-term conditions continue to drive demand on an already-stretched healthcare system.

Investment in prevention not only reduces unnecessary costly care and avoidable expenditure and demand but also helps with the environmental impact of associated unplanned care, hence materials, such as X-ray tubes, contrast, sharps, plastics, and packaging. This major source of waste can add to the financial pressure on health systems if not managed correctly.

The concept of preventive care isn’t new. But recognising the link between prevention and sustainability – both financial and environmental – will take you one step further to reaping the associated productivity improvements. For example, investing in technologies like predictive analytics, remote patient monitoring, and digital patient engagement can reduce the need for physical consultations and help assign more effective treatment pathways.

Driving transformation for more sustainable care

A critical dependency for productivity is the modernisation of NHS facilities, including ageing estates and the technologies within them, because staff need the right tools and environments to help them work smarter.

We know that digital health technology and artificial intelligence can make health systems more efficient, productive, and financially sustainable as they offer new ways to reach patients; connecting them with the care they need, when they need it while reducing environmental impact and the cost of care.

For example, virtual care can enable remote interaction between patients and clinicians, reducing travel-related CO2 emissions, while also supporting prevention. Another key area that we look at with customers is workflows; in radiology, for example, we provide innovative technology that helps ensure first-time-right scans, avoiding the need for re-scans and helping to ensure the efficiency and sustainability of radiology operations. These technologies can also help to transform pathways, streamlining operation efficiency and driving productivity, outcomes and sustainability.

Increasing circularity with financing options

We know there can be barriers to accessing such innovative technologies. That’s why we work with our customers and partners to find unique solutions for the challenges they’re facing. We see finance as a strategic solution within a partnership and can tailor it around the needs and situations of our customers – helping them to access cutting-edge medical technology, without the need for significant upfront capital cost.

From initial purchase to lifetime extension and eventual trade-in, we have financing solutions designed to be efficient and effective in every situation, helping partners to optimise the value of their technology. We also refurbish our systems as part of our focus on circularity and hold expertise in circular design.

Opening up discussions around financing enables more innovative solutions that can help boost healthcare productivity, support NHS organisations to spend less in terms of capital assets, reduce their capital balance sheet exposure, and recoup VAT for supplier-led service provision.

Partnering to drive financial and environmental sustainability

At Philips, we work with our customers to help them address their clinical and operational challenges, while at the same time adopting sustainable ways of working.

For example, we’ve partnered with County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust to identify improvement and optimisation opportunities to reduce carbon footprint and material waste in its intensive care unit – with associated cost benefits.

The trust is already implementing some of the recommendations, including only opening equipment when needed to prevent unnecessary waste and removing discharge delays, which, according to our deep-dive analysis, could potentially save them hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.

Industry partnerships are crucial to helping NHS trusts overcome key financial challenges, identify efficiency improvements and factor in environmental considerations. The focus on environmental sustainability is an opportunity to review efficiencies and implement cost savings, all supporting the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

If you’d like to discuss this further and learn more about our partnerships, please get in touch with our solutions team – we’d love to hear from you.