Optimising CVD care pathways can deliver more efficient care
Preventing hospital admissions by creating efficient care pathways and reducing wasteful practices would not only provide an opportunity to improve people’s health, but could also reduce carbon emissions. Long-term, resource-intensive hospital stays are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, an average overnight stay in a hospital ward for a patient requiring more intensive treatment produces around 2.3 times more greenhouse gas emissions than a stay in a ward with lower-intensity treatment.
It’s also important to focus on secondary prevention – the careful management of risk factors in people who have experienced a heart attack or stroke, in order to prevent a subsequent one. Second or subsequent heart attacks and strokes often require longer hospital stays and more diagnostic tests and treatments, adding to the environmental burden.
Bringing care closer to home, by ensuring community healthcare services are appropriately equipped, would be less resource intensive. It would also reduce travel emissions and improve patient outcomes. Community-based care could be facilitated by broader adoption of digital health, such as remote monitoring and teleconsultations.
Seeing the whole picture
Although we may often think of different policy priorities as ‘competing’ with one another, it’s important to recognise that no area of policy – health, environmental, economic – exists in isolation. As we’ve seen, cardiovascular disease and climate change are among the most pressing concerns facing governments today. There’s never going to be a ‘silver bullet’ to fix these problems instantly, but taking a holistic view and recognising where different priorities overlap can help us to find solutions.
Improving CVD prevention and care will clearly have a beneficial impact on people’s lives. Given the enormous burden of CVD, this will translate into broader societal benefits, as people are able to remain healthy as they age, maintaining physical and financial independence for longer. Finally, keeping people out of hospital will have a sizeable impact on the healthcare sector’s use of resources, saving costs and – crucially – reducing the environmental burden. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we can’t afford to wait.
This is the third in a series of HPP blogs around healthcare and climate change. Read the first instalment on the nexus between climate change and healthcare, and the second on how climate change is affecting maternal and fetal health.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Health Policy Partnership.