Although manufacturers of diagnostic imaging scanners and computer systems are arguably among the leaders in developing energy-efficient products, radiologists themselves can play a role in making the delivery of health care more environmentally friendly say both an HHS report and a JACR study published this week.
One step is to move toward all digital imaging. Because chemicals used to develop film x-rays may damage the environment, the HHS 2011 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that was released yesterday reports that the National Institutes of Health has replaced film x-rays with digital imaging in order to reduce the use of common pollutants.
The Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan is meant to be an example to others and serves as a good reminder to radiology departments to make sure their investments in digital imaging are also counted toward their organizations' efforts to be more environmentally responsible.
The plan also aims to create an incentive for manufacturers of all types of medical equipment — including imaging equipment — to develop even more energy efficient versions of their products. Devices that use less energy or have been rated by Energy Star as more efficient will be preferred for purchase by HHS and NIH, the report says. Radiologists can copy this example by making energy efficiency an important criteria in their own purchasing selections.
In addition, although energy efficiency is great, using no unnecessary energy by turning devices off when not in use is even better. Prasanth M. Prasanna, MD, of the Department of Radiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore just published the results of a small simple study of energy efficiency that he conducted in his own department. In the November JACR issue, he reports that if all equipment in his department was shut down after an 8-hour workday, the department would save 83,866.6 kWh or $9,225.33.