Dr Thomas Constantine, director of Coastal Medical Imaging, shares his experience of setting up a sustainable radiology clinic in North Wales
Dr Constantine's comments coincide with the publication, by OpenRad, of a new white paper on sustainability in radiology which emphasises the increasing need for radiology to become more sustainable and eco-friendly in response to the NHS’s net zero targets
As the founder of a small radiology clinic in North Wales, I have been able to steer our business towards a sustainable future from the ground up.
Coastal Medical Imaging has now been open more than 12 months and we are learning about how environmentally-friendly decisions often align with commercial viability.
Working in the healthcare sector, we strongly believe in safeguarding not only our patients’ current health, but also the health of future generations.
On a personal level, I have two children and a family, so it is important to me to conduct business ethically, and trying to reduce carbon to net zero is one of the ways to achieve this.
We formalised our commitment to running a green clinic with a written sustainability policy soon after opening in April 2022 and began crafting our carbon reduction plan.
As a start-up, we grappled with identifying our initial carbon emissions, but as we stabilised operations, we have been gradually forming a clearer picture of our environmental impact.
The time when we really started to focus our attention on sustainability was when we applied for a local framework agreement which allows us to bid for tenders for outsourcing from the public sector.
This required us to commit to a net zero carbon target by 2050 and to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% over the next five years.
As a start-up, we grappled with identifying our initial carbon emissions, but as we stabilised operations, we have been gradually forming a clearer picture of our environmental impact
To record our carbon emissions, we are utilising an online calculator from Carbon Footprint Ltd.
And this tool has been instrumental in helping us assess our energy consumption and travel emissions.
The process is still ongoing as we sort through a year’s worth of data, including everything from electricity and gas bills, to travel logs and work-from-home energy usage.
It is a time-consuming process, but we are committed to ensuring accuracy so we can form a reliable baseline for future decision-making.
One of the first steps we took was to condense our clinics into fortnightly extended sessions, which significantly reduced energy consumption and travel emissions.
Reducing travel emissions is high on the agenda
Reducing travel emissions is high on the agenda
Patients are happy to wait a few more days for their scan, as it’s still considerably less than they would wait in the public sector.
This means that we are now using the building much less and sonographers are not coming to and from the clinic using fossil fuels in their cars.
Also, the ultrasound machine is turned on much less and that is one example of how we have made a commercial decision that has also been in line with sustainability.
It is a time-consuming process, but we are committed to ensuring accuracy so we can form a reliable baseline for future decision-making
Our commitment to sustainability extends to our equipment, too.
The clinic uses an ultrasound machine that we can easily switch on and off to minimise energy consumption.
We are also proud that our electricity tariff comes from a 100% renewable source, and are now exploring options to reduce our gas usage, potentially even switching to an electricity source for heating the building.
In the future, we plan to integrate MRI scanners, which will undoubtedly pose new challenges due to their high energy needs and we are contemplating a mobile unit, but will need to consider the carbon emissions implications of its transport.
This adds another layer of complexity to our operations, but we are determined to find the most-sustainable solution by offsetting the energy that we use.
Our workstations are another area where we have been able to reduce our carbon footprint. We have two workstations at the clinic – one for reporting and one for the reception.
Thanks to using the Openrad domestic cloud platform, we have been able to use just a small computer for reporting images, rather than a traditional server room with high-energy consumption and cooling needs.
As we continue to grow and expand, we are committed to remaining true to our green roots, by making decisions that are environmentally conscious
The cloud-based system allows our sonographers to work remotely, reducing travel emissions and if they need to do an addendum for a report, or if we need a radiologist to complete some quality assurance, everything can be done from home through the cloud.
My advice to anyone considering setting up a radiology clinic would be to ensure that sustainability remains a core ethos from the start.
Using companies like OpenRad that have a cloud-based system not only saves time and money, but also reduces carbon emissions and electricity.
Finding solutions that allow people to work remotely also helps your business to be more sustainable.
As we continue to grow and expand, we are committed to remaining true to our green roots, by making decisions that are environmentally conscious.