An MRI machine can use up to 400kWh per day across 12 hours or 12000kWh per month. This electrical consumption is equal to running 40 average houses for a month (just imagine a full block of houses). As radiology relies on MRI machines that consume vast amounts of electricity, it has the potential to be a major contributor to environmental problems such as climate change.
There are a number of ways that our imaging centre can reduce its environmental impact, from implementing digital workflows to reducing waste.
As radiology increasingly moves towards digitisation, the need for paperless practices becomes more important. Not only is going paperless more sustainable from an environmental perspective, but it can also help radiology departments save money and improve efficiency. Allowing patients and clinicians to book online and providing staff with tablets rather than printing paper referrals can have a huge impact.
We aim to be more energy-efficient by installing energy-efficient, motion sensor lighting, and using energy-efficient medical and non-medical equipment.
Power consumption of computer reporting stations is a significant drain on resources, with the idle or standby state using almost half as much energy as the active state. The use of auto shutdown on computers and workstations can save 45% of energy consumption.
Printing should be kept to a minimum, and printers set to print double sided as a default.
A recent study showed that 50% of the energy consumption from air conditioning in radiology departments was at night and weekends. We must be vigilant at switching off air conditioning at the end of the day.
Within the imaging centre we must have smooth and efficient workflows to reduce the idle time of machines. We can carefully plan the layout of scanners to share the cooling systems and other equipment.
One important aspect of green radiology is reducing the amount of waste produced by radiology departments. Delivery of “single use” kit is big contributor to greenhouse gas emission. We should aim to recycle or reuse medical imaging supplies and equipment whenever possible. Recycling materials, such as contrast bottles, also helps to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.
We can reduce water waste by asking patients to wear clothes without buttons and metal so they don’t have to use gowns. We can use “Water hippos” in the loos and motion sensor taps.
We should use biodegradable cups for patients, and biodegradable paper for MRI and ultrasound tables. There should be properly labelled, separate waste for recycling, food etc. and this should be available in clinical and non-clinical areas.
We must also be conscious of waste water contamination. We must aim to use eco friendly cleaning products, but also be considerate of the risk to the population from contrast material in water waste. There is ongoing research into this, with proposals that include asking patients to collect their urine in hospital following a contrast scan, and for this to be disposed of properly. There are also developments with the use of artificial intelligence in the MRI machinery to reduce the amount of contrast needed. What can we do in the meantime? We must use contrast only when necessary.
What can the industry do?
At the European Congress of Radiology recently, I heard Kees Wesdorp from Phillips speak about the Industry role in energy consumption. Reducing idle time and heat waste recovery from cooling systems are two things they are working on today. There is also an aim to refurbish or harvest parts from old equipment. He mentioned that digital tools and virtual engagement with patients would have a positive impact on environment.
Green radiology is an important part of sustainable healthcare. By reducing the environmental impact of radiology exams, we can help preserve our planet for future generations.