October 30, 2014

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From Single Use to Medical Technology Products That Run 24/7: Reducing the Environmental Impact of Hospitals

Many products used in hospitals are designed for a single use. Medical technology products run 24/7 and, as a result, consume energy continuously.

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In part five of the six-part series about Earthwards, Adam Cornfield, Product Manager for Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc., shares how his team - part of Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Diagnostics & Devices sector - leveraged the company’s EARTHWARDS® process to respond to customer needs and the evolving demand for more sustainable health care products.

It may come as a surprise that the average hospital uses more energy per square foot than any other commercial building type – second only to retail food establishments – and that health systems produce a daily average of 26 pounds of waste for every staffed hospital bed. Given these realities, hospitals are taking steps to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations and of the products they purchase.

Last year, Johnson & Johnson commissioned global research to better understand the demand for more sustainable and greener products among healthcare procurement professionals. The findings revealed that more than half (54 percent) of hospitals currently consider the environmental attributes of the products they purchase, and that this is becoming increasingly more important to them.

Most respondents (89 percent) reported that they consider whether a supplier offers an “end-of-life” solution, such as take-back or recycling programs, when making purchasing decisions. Energy efficiency is another important product attribute cited by respondents (87 percent).

No surprises here, since many products used in hospitals and healthcare institutions are often designed for a single use and then disposed of, or medical technology products that run 24/7 and, as single use syringea result, consume energy continuously.

Working with Customers on More Sustainable Solutions

Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc. (OCD), part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, delivers high-quality in vitro diagnostic products that give healthcare professionals in hospitals, laboratories and blood centers the knowledge they need to make better treatment decisions sooner.

The findings from the global research mentioned above echoes the concerns we have been hearing from our customers regarding energy and waste management as part of a product’s total cost of ownership (TCO) over its usable lifespan. These considerations are similar to those you or I might have when buying a car. While the initial investment of a car might be $25,000, the vehicle’s TCO, due to costs associated with fuel and maintenance, will be much more over its lifetime. 

To meet the growing demand for greener and more efficient healthcare products, our team evaluated the VITROS® Chemistry and Immunodiagnostics systems to pursue the first Earthwards recognition for an OCD product. Earthwards refers to the company’s internal process that drives the design and development of greener products. We embarked on this process to address OCD’s environmental impacts and to help our customers reduce theirs as well.

VITROS 3600 System: The Next Generation

OCD products enable hospitals and laboratories around the world to deliver results that help patients experience a better quality of life. Our solutions are focused on the VITROS systems, which help laboratory staff screen, diagnose, monitor and confirm diseases early, before lives are at risk. Using VITROS 3600the Earthwards process, we evaluated areas in which efficiency and sustainability improvements could be made in comparison to our existing VITROS ECiQ Immunodiagnostic System.

In 2012, the VITROS 3600 System received Earthwards recognition for improvements made to generate less waste, consume less energy and use fewer materials, compared to the VITROS ECiQ System. The VITROS 3600 System achieved a 13 percent reduction in energy needed and an 80 percent reduction in liquid waste generated during use.

By employing on-board electronic documentation, we were also able to reduce the paper needed to use the system by 15 percent.

The VITROS 3600 System also achieved significant improvements in compliance with the European Union’s Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substance (ROHS) standards. These standards limit the amount of certain ingredients and materials – such as lead and mercury – that can be present in electronic equipment.

Our efforts focused on collecting information from suppliers about the materials that are used in the 3,788 components that comprise the VITROS 3600 System. We were able to collect data for approximately 25 percent of these parts, and intend to ensure full ROHS compliance by the 2016 deadline.

The path to receiving an Earthwards certification was not without hurdles however.

During the Lifecycle Screening phase, we encountered challenges in compiling information about the impacts of all of the thousands of materials that go into the many components of the VITROS 3600 System, some of which are manufactured by upstream suppliers. As part of the Assess Compliance Earthwardsphase – the first step in the Earthwards process – teams must demonstrate that they know what materials are used in the product. We satisfied this requirement by having a product stewardship data collection and compliance strategy already in place.

What’s Next for OCD?

Though the VITROS 3600 System is our first product to earn Earthwards recognition, we are committed to this process for the long term. OCD has initiated the Earthwards process for several other OCD products and we are hopeful that they will successfully emerge with this internal recognition.

But more importantly, the specifications included in the Earthwards criteria are being embedded in our product design and commercialization processes to ensure our products are more sustainable from the start. This is the future we envision and are working hard to achieve.

Stay tuned for the next and final article in this series to learn what the future has in store for Earthwards – and Johnson & Johnson.

Previously:

Greener Products: Johnson & Johnson’s Blended Formula

Toward Greener Products: The Complex Journey of Product Innovation

Earthwards: A Front Row Seat to Sustainability in Action at Johnson & Johnson

Earthwards: Johnson & Johnson’s Drive Toward a Healthy Future

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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