Shift your own practice in healthcare

Shift practice, refers to actions focussed on reducing carbon emissions by changes at the point of care. These actions are exciting because they are things we all have some direct control over in our everyday practice. The general principles that we apply are:

  • Patient safety and outcomes are paramount. We must first ask, “does the change in practice pose any threat to patient safety or outcomes?” and if so, “can these threats be appropriately mitigated?”
  • Importantly, there are often reasons why practice change to reduce emissions may also improve outcomes.
  • Is practice change meaningful, achievable and sustainable?
  • Are there other ‘co-benefits’ in addition to the reduced emissions such as a reduced cost or health co-benefits like active travel to work (walking, cycling), improving cardiovascular fitness and much more.

‘Shift Practice’ focuses on three specific actions targeting: Anaesthetic gases, pressurised metered dose inhalers & pathology test ordering.

The first two actions account for approximately 8-10% of the carbon emissions generated in healthcare, as described in reports from the National Health System in the UK.


Reduce unnecessary pathology test ordering

Healthcare is an expensive and carbon-intensive sector, generating 7% of the national carbon emissions in Australia. Although the carbon footprints of individual pathology tests are small, millions of tests are performed each year in Australia, and reducing unnecessary testing will be the most effective approach to reducing the carbon footprint of pathology.


Environmental stewardship of pressurised metered-dose inhalers

Pressurised metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) contain hydrofluorocarbon propellants in which medicines are dissolved. They are liquids when under pressure and are released as a gas when the device is used. These hydrofluorocarbon compounds are potent global warming gases: 1350-3350 times more potent per gram than carbon dioxide.


Decrease greenhouse gas pollution in anaesthesia

Anaesthesia is a carbon-intensive specialty, involving the routine use of inhaled drugs which are potent greenhouse gases. After patient use, these gases are exhausted directly to the environment, where they accumulate in the atmosphere contributing to global warming.