In my job, I have two very different sets of responsibilities, and I’m lucky enough to have these roles coincide with two of my passions. First, I am responsible for my hospital’s biomedical engineering team and, second, I oversee our Green Initiative.
My mind works like two brains: One half is devoted to the HTM side, and the other focuses on reducing our impact on Mother Earth. Shortly after accepting the Green Initiative post, my hospital joined Practice GreenHealth (PGH) as a charter member. I have been nudging AAMI to do more with environmental sustainability and perhaps work with PGH. The world of healthcare technology is not doing as much as it can or should to be environmentally responsible. Examples of where we fall short include manufacturers who over-package shipments, such as including CDs with all 200 packages of a new device or a booklet with every leadwire set. HTM departments also can do a lot better. Many throw toxics and recyclables—such as circuit boards, power cords, and batteries—into the trash, where they wind up in a landfill.
My wish for moving forward became a reality with the formation of the AAMI Sustainability Committee. This committee has done a lot of great work, including a white paper Elements of a Responsible Product Life Cycle. This standards committee includes both members of AAMI and PGH. I am extremely proud to announce that the committee has finalized an important technical information report: TIR65, Sustainability of medical devices—Elements of a responsible product life cycle. That document should be available in the AAMI Store this month. As noted in the abstract, this TIR “highlights sustainability considerations during the product design and manufacturing, acquisition and use, and end of life of medical devices, taking into account the life cycle impacts of the product.”
This document is a huge step in the right direction. There are other manufacturing standards around the world, but none are aimed at medical devices. Getting to this point was an exciting ride. I would like to thank AAMI and PGH for their support and guidance, the entire committee (which was comprised of manufacturers and users), and especially the co-chairs. The passion for getting this right was always obvious. As a committee, we tried to make this TIR useable for anyone involved in the design, manufacture, or use of medical devices.
We all can do more to be green. My challenge to each of you as environmental stewards is to reduce where you can: Use reusable items, such as filters; collect and send e-waste to be properly processed; and donate unused or unneeded parts and supplies to charities and schools that need them. Don’t use ten paper towels when one is enough. Whether at work or home, practice the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse (or repurpose), Recycle, and Rot (compost).
Manufacturers, design fewer disposable items (components, filters, etc.) whenever possible, and review your shipping containers and methods for inefficiencies or waste. If you have a green team at organization, join it. If not, start one.
Every once in a while, my HTM brain and my green brain collide, and it is such a great feeling!
Paul Kelley, CBET, is director of biomedical engineering and the Green Initiative at Washington Hospital in Fremont, CA. He also is a member of the AAMI Board of Directors.