May 02 2024

IT Asset Disposition Services Create Sustainability in Healthcare

The healthcare industry becomes more sustainable by recycling and repurposing outdated IT equipment and focusing on energy-efficient solutions.

Strong incentives are encouraging the healthcare industry to focus more on environmental sustainability. Reducing carbon emissions and air pollution can improve health equity and patient outcomes, and it has been proved that eco-friendly policies can lead to significant cost savings.

IT departments can play a vital role in achieving sustainable healthcare. Adopting IT asset disposition strategies and transitioning to energy-efficient devices are actionable steps that IT leaders can take now.

DISCOVER: The smart path to tech upgrades should balance costs and environmental responsibility.

What Is IT Asset Disposition?

Consider the tens of millions of medical devices and the exhaustive number of computers, tablets and servers that hospitals rely on. Eventually, these tools either break down or become irrelevant as technology advances. 

This is where IT asset disposition comes in. ITAD involves removing sensitive data such as patient information from devices and then recycling, repurposing or disposing of the equipment. 

“IT products must be updated to remain current, optimize operational productivity and ensure data security,” says Gina Cano, senior director of business development and environmental, social and governance and sustainability services at Dell Technologies. “Having an ITAD strategy allows organizations to responsibly and sustainably refresh outdated IT equipment.” 

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How Is Healthcare Implementing ITAD Best Practices?

When recycling devices, avoiding “inadvertent leakage of protected health information” must remain top of mind, says Charles Christian, CTO and vice president of technology at Franciscan Health.

He says that one option for repurposing devices without compromising patient data is to reimage them. This involves deleting existing hard drives and installing a new operating system on the devices. 

“When staff members leave, we don’t destroy their laptops if they’re still functional,” Christian notes. “By reimaging them, the next users get the applications they need and the appropriate security permissions.”

Another common strategy, Christian says, was developed by the Department of Defense. “We call it the DOD wipe. The program writes random ones and zeroes over the hard drive. It overwrites the data enough times that there’s no chance of ever recovering anything.” 

ITAD practices also include shredding hard drives to destroy data.

“At Franciscan Health, we refresh hardware about every 48 months,” Christian says, adding that hospital employees don’t need to manage ITAD services themselves. 

“There are multiple companies that do the recycling.” 

LEARN MORE: Healthcare organizations are tackling climate change now and in the future.

IT Asset Disposition Services Can Aid Sustainability in Healthcare

Discarded electronics are the world’s fastest-growing waste source, according to the U.N.’s Global E-waste Monitor, and the group estimates that less than 20 percent of e-waste is collected and recycled. 

Third-party vendors, such as CDW and its ITAD partners, are working to change that by making it easier for healthcare organizations to sustainably dispose of old equipment. ITAD vendors remove and transport old equipment, audit assets, wipe data and handle electronic recycling.

“ITAD first prioritizes safely and securely removing the data from IT equipment, then determining which equipment or individual components can be reused, repaired or repurposed to extend the life of that equipment,” Cano says. 

She adds that Dell, which has recovered more than 2.6 billion pounds of used electronics since 2007, also offers “onsite data protection services for an extra level of security, like sanitizing devices before they leave the customer’s facility.”

Christian further explains that to ensure patient data is secure, there is a “rigid chain of custody. In every place the equipment is touched, there is a sign-off. A certificate of destruction attests that they destroyed the hard drives.”

ITAD services also provide medical centers with an opportunity to save money. “If a device is still usable, they’ll put a new hard drive in there and repurpose it,” Christian says. “When they do, we get a rebate.”

Initiatives Working Toward Sustainable Healthcare Goals

ITAD is one method that healthcare organizations are using to improve sustainability. More efficient energy usage is another key solution. There are multiple strategies to accomplish this goal.

Converting to the Cloud

Cloud computing can be up to 93 percent more energy-efficient than onsite data centers, Microsoft notes, and can reduce carbon emissions and total energy consumption. Moving to the cloud also allows healthcare IT departments to pay only for what they need.

“We’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on cloud costs,” Christian says. “One of the benefits of the cloud is that it helps us determine how much it truly costs to run our assets. We watch our utilization, and if we’re undertaxing the servers, we can shift to a smaller, less expensive server.”

Selecting Energy-Efficient Devices

As hospitals phase out older technologies, replacing them with more energy-efficient devices is an easy solution for sustainability. 

“Not only do energy-efficient IT solutions reduce energy use and carbon emissions but they can also help reduce overall energy costs,” Cano says. “Healthcare organizations can easily identify energy-efficient technology by looking for the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and ENERGY STAR labels.”

Hospitals can also cut energy costs with simple solutions, such as replacing fluorescent bulbs with LEDs.

READ MORE: Automated building systems turn data into energy savings for hospitals.

Installing Automated Systems

Occupancy-based usage is another simple solution for healthcare sustainability. Smart sensors detect when someone is in a room and automatically turn on the lights, air conditioning or heating system. After the room has been empty for a set period, those systems turn off.

Ultimately, the benefits of using IT asset disposition services and adopting more energy-efficient measures stretch beyond the environmental impact. 

As Christian points out, IT cost savings can mean more resources for patients. “Every dollar I save or recover can be turned right back into buying additional equipment for patient care or renovating a space to provide a different level of service,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s about the patients.”

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