Healthcare sustainability metrics. Click to enlarge.

GE is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Ecomagination Initiative, a company-wide effort to improve sustainability both internally and through the company’s external product offerings and service solutions. To mark the occasion and World Environment Day on June 5, GE Healthcare has released an infographic detailing the company’s global sustainability progress in the medical imaging equipment sector.

The initiative launched in 2005 in response to customer queries about sustainability across the company’s various sectors, including transportation and aviation. The logic behind the efforts in healthcare, says Hugh Zettel, leader of GE’s Ecomagination Initiative, is that “If…my CTs, MRs, etc can be more energy efficient, I’m saving energy, I’m saving water, I’m reducing waste, and I provide a net benefit to our customer along the way.” Hospitals are currently responsible for 5% of total energy consumption across the United States, according to GE.

The infographic represents global energy savings between 2009 and the third quarter of 2014 from Ecomagination-qualified products across four major imaging modalities: CT, MR, women’s health ultrasound, and general imaging ultrasound. Energy savings are based on average use per hospital in GE’s global installed base. The numbers are normalized to US metrics for energy mix and costs, and translated into equivalent cost savings and carbon footprint. According to the graphic, electricity savings since 2009 total 102 GWh per year, enough to power 9,300 average homes in the United States for a year.

“We took conservative approaches based on real data,” Zettel says. “Those numbers get scrutinized very closely, so we’re very conservative on the number of patients and the hours of scanning per day.”

In the CT and MR modalities, energy-saving features typically involve software that enables the equipment to “gracefully shut itself down” overnight and during the weekends to reduce usage. Since CT equipment also requires a temperature-controlled scan room, better managing energy use during downtime can lead to cascading energy and cost savings across the health organization. According to Zettel, the potential for dual benefits appeals to most hospitals, which are increasingly facing pressure to be more productive with fewer resources.

“In the healthcare space, while some customers are very sustainability-minded… all customers get the [lower] total cost of ownership from the reduced energy,” he says. “Every penny [they] save in energy falls right to the bottom line. Those that want to differentiate themselves look at how they can express this as having an impact on their local community, relative to their footprint.”

Over time, Zettel says, the company hopes to improve the systems’ underlying technology to make them even more efficient. Right now, the number of imaging systems enrolled in the Ecomagination program varies by modality. The CT program currently includes three systems (the Optima CT660, the Optima CT520, and the Brivo CT385); in contrast, nearly all of the women’s health portfolio is eco-qualified. The list of eligible systems can be viewed by modality on the GE Ecomagination website.