Global Health

November 29, 2023

Radiology research proves environmentally sustainable cost savings for MRIs and CT scans

A collaboration between Royal Philips and Vanderbilt University Medical Center proves that sustainable initiatives in health care can be both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

A collaboration between Royal Philips and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), initially announced in May, proves that sustainable initiatives in health care can be both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Today, the two entities announced initial results of a research collaboration to decarbonize the health system’s radiology department.

Decarbonizing is the act of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from a process. In this case, Royal Philips and VUMC have demonstrated the ability to create a significant reduction in carbon emissions from VUMC’s radiologic equipment.

The assessment indicated that circular business models, such as upgrades, can reduce total cost of ownership of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system by up to 23% and carbon emissions by 17%, and for CT, refurbished systems and equipment upgrades can contribute to reducing costs of ownership by up to 10% and 8% respectively, and reducing carbon emissions by 6% and 4% respectively.

Philips and VUMC assessed 13 diagnostic imaging devices including MR, CT, ultrasound and X-ray, which account for an estimated 12,000 patient scans per month and found that, over a period of 10 years, they emit the CO₂ equivalent of approximately 1,000 gas cars driven for one year. In addition, the energy use of scanners accounted for more than half of the total emissions released from diagnostic radiology. Other generators of carbon emissions within the department included the use of medical disposables, PACS (picture archiving and communication system) and linen production and laundry.

The assessment showed that both technology and health care practitioners play a significant role in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. For example, 44%-75% of energy is consumed outside of patient scanning time, therefore the research emphasized the importance of working with staff to improve patient scan efficiency and industry partners to develop techniques to reduce carbon emissions between scans. Improving scanning efficiency with technology including those that are AI-enabled may conserve energy and reduce unnecessary scan repetition.

Diana Carver, PhD
Diana Carver, PhD

“Human health is closely connected to the health of the environment, and we need to take care of both, which is why we feel a great sense of urgency to address our carbon emissions and develop a more sustainable and healthier path forward,” said Diana Carver, PhD, assistant professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences at VUMC. “Our collaboration is leveraging our team’s collective knowledge and expertise to reveal key learnings that will direct our efforts to cut emissions.”

Along with implementing a set of prioritized interventions defined by Philips and VUMC that will support the carbon footprint reduction of the radiology department, the two organizations intend to share their findings in a scientific publication, with the objective of facilitating knowledge sharing and enabling further improvement of environmental strategies throughout the health care industry.

“It is imperative that health care acts quickly, collectively and globally to mitigate climate impact. This study challenges conventional thinking that sustainability increases costs when it, in fact, does just the opposite. Energy-efficient, circular, digital and cloud-based technologies can help address climate change, and this research shows that individual behavioral changes can also play an important role in speeding up global efforts towards decarbonization,” said Jeff DiLullo, chief region leader, Philips North America. “Our teams continue to work closely to define an approach and model that VUMC can leverage, anticipating results of this research will inspire others to take action.”