LabLog - Sustainable Hospitals Laura Artz

Every other week, we follow a student from one of our Interdisciplinary Thesis Labs. This week: Laura Artz, master student in Technical Medicine at the TU Delft, LUMC and EMC, from our Sustainable Hospitals lab, Laura Artzorganised together with Medical Delta. 

Hi everyone, I am Laura Artz, a Master's student in Technical Medicine at the TU Delft, LUMC and EMC. My personal interests within the field are Imaging, Global health and last but not least Sustainability in healthcare. My thesis is related to as well imaging as sustainability, since the topic is the analysis of the environmental impact of the PET-CT scanner in the Alrijne hospital in Leiderdorp. Currently, more and more research has been conducted on the environmental impact of all types of medical procedures, but somehow not extensively for imaging procedures. However, imaging devices are one of the largest energy consumers in the hospital. The small amount of available literature shows that MRI scanners are most probably the largest energy consumers, after which CT follows and then Ultrasound and X-ray devices. No such research of the PET-CT has yet been published, while it is expected that the rates of PET-CT examinations will increase in the near future.

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The interdisciplinarity of the thesis labs immediately drew my attention since these types of challenges can only be addressed by cooperation of different working fields. Furthermore, I wanted to gain more knowledge on the problems and possible solutions for a more sustainable healthcare system. The lectures and workshops of the ‘Sustainable Hospital lab’ are definitely giving me more insight about this.

One of the workshops was a round-table session with professionals of various disciplines that are trying to implement certain sustainability measurements in hospitals. There were clinicians from the Gynaecology department of the LUMC, the green OR and from the children’s intensive care of the EMC. Next to that, there were professionals from the caterings service of the LUMC, the company GreenCycl and psychology. Prior to this round table session, we already had the opportunity to visit some of the departments/company, which was very interesting as well. 

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The students of the lab all prepared questions, after which interesting discussions were held. Topics that were discussed were:

  • The waste disposal streams of hospital waste
  • How to bring awareness for sustainability within hospitals
  • Receiving transparency from manufacturers about the environmental impact of products
  • Plant-based food in as well caterings as for children on the intensive care unit and the struggles of implementing such measurements
  • The psychology behind making sustainable choices
  • The regulations that restrict bottom-up initiatives in large academic hospitals

It was very interesting to hear the opinions and thoughts of professionals from various disciplines. It became more clear that this is a problem that needs to be tackled on many levels inside and outside the hospital. Implementing sustainability in hospitals is still predominantly a bottom-up process instead of a top-down process. Top-down processes tend to go faster and have bigger impacts, as they incorporate changes in infrastructure and policies. My project is a bottom-up initiated project, but then executed in a peripheral hospital instead of an academic hospital which makes it a bit easier. Lastly the manufacturers of medical devices also need to give more transparency about the environmental impact of their devices. Regulations of the government can help to make this happen.

In my thesis, I hope to find certain hotspots that contribute significantly to the environmental impact and secondly I hope to implement some measurements to reduce this.