February 08th 2024

Real Life Simulation: Students Present their Results from the Course

Environmental policy reforms and wasteful spending in healthcare

It’s a wrap! We are springing back to you with developments from the student-initiated projects in the practice-oriented Elective course, "Real Life Simulation" (RLS), offered in the third semester of the Master program, International Health and Social Management. The four submitted research projects cover topics in food waste management, birth options, anesthetic gases and pharmaceutical waste. During the course of developing their respective projects, students delved deeper into the critical intersections between environmental policy reforms and current understandings of the problem, juxtaposed with what is/are currently ‘in-practice’. To address the identified issues comprehensively, students were encouraged to adopt suitable analytical frameworks such as Life Cycle Analysis and NHS 3 Scopes of Emission, and conceptualize the problems within a broader context of healthcare value chains. The research projects were grounded in a thorough literature review and expert interviews, aimed at understanding the issues better and identifying both quantitative and qualitative indicators to track and mitigate the environmental impacts of these healthcare activities.

Throughout the projects, students encountered key challenges that reflect the complexity of addressing environmental impacts of healthcare. These challenges include the limited availability of data, varying levels of knowledge or awareness of interdisciplinary issues, ambiguity and restrictions in current legislations, controversial ethical considerations, and the multi-faceted nature of decision-making in healthcare. Decision factors such as local perspectives, societal norms, culture, values, individual preferences, health literacy, and the organizational structure of healthcare systems added layers of complexity.

The course concluded with a 10-minute pitch and a comprehensive report addressing the environmental issue in question. The projects collectively underscore several significant entry points for the healthcare industry to co-create innovative solutions. The emphasis lies in garnering support, cooperation, and collaborative efforts from stakeholders. The importance of identifying salient stakeholders and clearly defining their roles and responsibilities is highlighted as a crucial step in implementing effective solutions.

The key takeaways from RLS 2024 Projects cover topics on:

  1. Transparency: Findings of these projects advocate for due-diligent transparency in operating protocols and frameworks to formally reflect and instill cooperation between different expertise and teams within a healthcare setting. This involves implementing robust reporting and monitoring management systems for enhanced accountability and multidisciplinary ownership of activities within the healthcare value chains in a meaningful and impactful manner.
  2. Policy Reforms and EU Regulatory Support: The projects call for current EU regulatory or legal frameworks to formally support and reflect policy reforms need to tackle specific issues, especially where they are currently lacking in terms of clarity, specificity or presence. This includes reviewing legislative hindrances and considering how existing data can support new decisions, as well as how new data can contribute to existing decision-making processes.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement and Collaboration: The value of garnering support from various stakeholders and coordinating their cooperative efforts are far-reaching. Identifying and engaging stakeholders effectively is considered a cornerstone for successful implementation of solutions to monitor or mitigate the environmental impacts in the health industry.
  4. Open Discussions on Best Practices:  The groups also concluded with a call for open discussions on best practices, fostering an environment where experiences, insights, and innovations can be shared to propel the healthcare industry towards greater environmental sustainability.

In conclusion, RLS 2024 serves as a catalyst for the new generation of changemakers to continue exploring and challenging boundaries of current ‘way forward’. Students understand the intricate balance between healthcare delivery and environmental responsibility, and are encouraged to become advocates for innovation and creativity in addressing complex environmental challenges in healthcare.