November 06th 2023

Environmental Policy Reforms in the Healthcare Sector: Insights into the Elective Course "Real Life Simulation"

Conceptualizing wasteful low-value care to reduce carbon footprints in the health sector

We're excited to share the latest developments from the third semester of our Master's program, International Health and Social Management, specifically focusing on one of our practice-oriented Elective Course, "Real Life Simulation" (RLS) offered in the third semester of the Master program, International Health and Social Management. RLS is an engaging course that encourages students to tackle real-world health challenges, combining theoretical knowledge, project management skills, and research methods to propose creative solutions. This semester, the course delves into a timely and pressing issue: the intersection of environmental policy reforms and wasteful spending in healthcare.

In recent years, Europe has witnessed a shift towards value-based and patient-centered healthcare, with ongoing reforms aimed at improving ambulatory care and primary healthcare. While these reforms are promising, they raise critical questions about their environmental sustainability. How do these changes influence sustainability efforts in the healthcare sector? Can we optimize healthcare delivery while minimizing its carbon footprint?  The central theme of this semester's RLS course revolves around the challenge of addressing environmental policy reforms and their impact on wasteful spending within healthcare value chains. The specific problem statement is: "Environmental policy reforms and impacts on wasteful spending in health care value chains: Exploring the use of metrics and indicators for a greener future in healthcare."

The RLS 2023 course takes a comprehensive approach to analyze these issues. It explores the dynamics between value-based healthcare and sustainability in primary care, using frameworks such as the OECD's wasteful spending and the Scope taxonomy framework. Students are challenged to develop relevant and scientifically sound metric indicators to measure the environmental impacts of wasteful spending in healthcare.

Engagement with Expertise

We are proud to have external lecturers, Mag.a Andrea Schmidt, MSc, and Mag.a Katharina Brugger, from our practice partner, the Austrian National Public Health Institute (Gesundheit Österreich GmbH, GÖG), actively participating in RLS 2023. Their invaluable insights and case studies have sparked critical discussions on wasteful low-value healthcare and its environmental consequences. The collaboration with GÖG is a unique feature of this course. Students have the opportunity to submit their research project proposals to GÖG for feedback, ensuring that their ideas are not only academically rigorous but also practical and relevant to the healthcare sector.

Students in RLS 2023 have kickstarted their endeavours to explore these issues with their range of innovative research project topics, including, under the expert guidance of our practice partners:

  1. Optimizing Anaesthetic Gas Consumption: Exploring ways to reduce the environmental impact of anesthesia procedures.
  2. Food Wastes in Hospitals: Finding strategies to reduce food waste in healthcare facilities.
  3. Pharmaceutical Wastes (Repurposing Drugs): Investigating opportunities to repurpose unused medications.
  4. Preventing Unnecessary C-Sections: Analyzing factors contributing to unnecessary cesarean sections.
  5. The Role of Telemedicine: Examining how telemedicine can save resources in emergency departments and healthcare services.


Looking Ahead

As we progress through RLS 2023, we are excited to see the innovative solutions that our students will propose to address the pressing issue of wasteful spending in healthcare value chains. These solutions have the potential to reduce the healthcare sector's environmental impact, aligning with national strategies to combat climate change.

We would like to express our gratitude to Mag.a Andrea Schmidt, MSc, and Mag.a Katharina Brugger for their continued support and guidance in this course. Stay tuned for more updates on RLS 2023 and the groundbreaking ideas our students will bring to the forefront and challenge the limits!