Digitization saves resources

  • University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Hospitals are also increasingly coming under "sustainability pressure". Not only do patients expect excellent medical care, they also expect a high level of ecological and social awareness. New regulatory requirements also require hospitals above a certain size to account for their sustainability efforts. IT can help in several ways here, as Frank Dzukowski, Head of Sustainability at Eppendorf University Hospital (UKE) in Hamburg, explains in an interview with VIEW.

VIEW: Mr. Dzukowski, how do you perceive the role of digitization on the path to a sustainable hospital?

Frank Dzukowski: digitization is an important issue as it is a prerequisite for efficient processes, particularly in larger hospitals. Ultimately, the aim is to save resources at various levels. For example, human resources, because nursing staff are in short supply throughout Germany and must be able to attend to their essential task in the hospital: caring for patients. This can only be achieved with a consistently high quality of care if the medical information for diagnosis or therapy is available in good quality to everyone involved in the process. Only then will good decisions be made efficiently and quickly to provide the patient with the best and fastest possible care. At the same time, spatial and material resources are economized as treatments are better coordinated. Duplicate examinations can be avoided and expensive, resource-intensive vacancies, for example in the operating room, can be reduced. Digitization can contribute to ensuring that everything dovetails, that the patient receives excellent, precise treatment, and that unnecessary time, materials, and energy are not spent.

Do you have any concrete examples for this? 

Frank Dzukowski: By networking medical subsystems in particular, information can be put into context in the best possible way. For example, in OR planning, we require a wealth of data from different systems to be able to plan this resource in a meaningful manner. And it is important that these data are available at the push of a button, so that there are no delays just because resource-relevant information is missing somewhere in paper format. If planning is not coordinated, this can lead to double occupancy or vacancies. And both consume resources, which has a negative impact on the sustainability balance of a facility.
Another - almost trivial - example is saving paper. For example, wherever only one signature is required, we try to do without a printout and map the process completely digitally. We have also eliminated the need for hard copies of ECGs by digitizing them in the first place. This offers the additional advantage that the physicians have better evaluation options. 

What are the prerequisites for digital data?

Frank Dzukowski: The information and documents must be easy to read and find via a good keyword search function. And not disappear into the depths of IT as an unknown, untitled document. It is also about ensuring that the processes and routines, which follow a logic, work and that employees can thus achieve good results quickly and automatically in their daily routine.

Procurement is an important lever for greater sustainability in every business. What requirements do you place on IT procurement in hospitals with regard to a focus on sustainability?

Frank Dzukowski: In IT procurement, we have requirements which basically apply everywhere. This includes an intelligent life cycle assessment which takes the entire service life into account. The longer the equipment can be operated, the less material is consumed. For example, we can work with extension guarantees to reduce the use of resources. In addition we also need to take the energy consumption of the devices as a basis, take energy classes into account, compare standby consumption and centralize storage locations.
These are the technical aspects. However, it is just as important to us that suppliers also begin to integrate sustainability criteria into their own business processes. For example, by determining their own carbon footprint - for the company and also for the products. Furthermore, we now also check whether the companies can provide evidence of meaningful certification. For example, according to the environmental standard DIN EN ISO 14001 or the sustainability standard EMAS. Commitment to the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals also plays a role.
In future, we will query this parallel supplier sustainability approach more frequently via the tender documents to ensure that we do not have an external product-related CO2 burden placed on us which would have a negative impact on our sustainability targets.

Do you already give preference to suppliers who can prove their sustainability activities?

Frank Dzukowski: The shift in procurement is a continuous process for all product groups. We do not include this in our tenders for all product groups at present, but the tender documents are increasingly being modified with these aspects. We are committed to the Supply Chain Act and have also implemented appropriate structures to comply with the requirements arising from this law. We regularly communicate with our purchasing department on how we can best meet our obligations. This is why expectations are on the rise and we will increasingly include criteria such as certification or sustainability reporting by our supply partners in the decision-making processes. We have, however, also noticed that companies are now increasingly providing good answers.

How do you communicate with your IT colleagues that they now also have to pay attention to the sustainability aspects of IT in addition to all the other requirements?

Frank Dzukowski: There's a big common denominator here, as we are all on the same team. Our IT is aware of the importance of efficiency-enhancing measures. This ranges from virtualization and energy-saving server cabinets to efficient cooling of our data center.

Thank you for the interview!

Frank Dzukowski
"We will also increasingly include criteria such as certification or sustainability reporting by supply partners in the decision-making processes."

Frank Dzukowski

Head of the Sustainability Office at Eppendorf University Hospital (UKE)

University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf 

The University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) is a pioneer in sustainability and is one of three hospitals in Germany to compile a sustainability report in line with the German Sustainability Code (DNK). The current head of the Sustainability and Climate Management Unit, Frank Dzukowski, first initiated the topic ten years ago. In 2014, sustainability was then included as one of the five key pillars in the mission statement of the university hospital, and the unit was established in 2020. The UKE aims to be climate neutral by 2040.