Resource Use

Circular models for hospital equipment investigated

Circular models for hospital equipment investigatedCircular business models for refurbished hospital equipment are to be explored in a six-month project by resource efficiency specialist Axion Consulting and medical imaging systems and therapy device supplier Philips.

The ‘CircMed’ project, co-funded by the government’s ‘innovation agency’, Innovate UK, will focus on a range of medical imaging equipment including MRI scanners, ultrasound equipment, CT scanners and X-ray equipment.

On average, medical imaging equipment supplied as new has a lifespan of 10 years. According to Axion, refurbishment can add a further 10 years to this timeframe, with additional options for parts harvesting after that. Philips already refurbishes products through its Diamond Select programme in the Netherlands, with products being used in the USA and Germany.

CircMed project details

The project aims to get an idea of why UK hospitals have not taken to using refurbished equipment, and look at the potential of using circular economy business models such as a managed equipment service and pay-per-use. 

Circular models for hospital equipment investigatedIn the initial phase of the project, NHS and private-sector health professionals are being asked to complete a short survey that aims to provide an understanding of what conditions need to be met for the healthcare sector to adopt alternative business models for high-quality refurbished devices.

Stringent procurement systems are thought to be a prominent barrier to using alternative business models, while Axion also believes that hospitals have preconceptions that refurbished systems would not offer the same quality of service as new systems.

Axion hopes that the project could have a ‘significant impact’ on the UK healthcare sector, allowing for a more sustainable future while also increasing the affordability of diagnostic equipment in UK hospitals.

A high amount of critical raw materials is used in the creation of medical imaging devices. Gallium is found in LCD screens and integrated circuits, berylium in CT scanners and niobium and helium in MRI scanners.

Refurbished systems created by Philips can have a value of 60 to 85 per cent of the price value of a new unit, and though Axion cannot give a figure to the potential financial benefits of a more circular business model, as savings depend on each hospital’s circumstances, it hopes that the feasibility study will give a better idea of the overall cost impact.

‘Fresh’ ideas and approaches being examined

Axion Consulting Senior Consultant Nichola Mundy said: “Currently circular economy business models for refurbished equipment are not common practice within the UK healthcare sector, yet many other countries, such as Germany, have already benefitted from a shift away from the traditional linear value chain.

“We will be examining fresh ideas and alternative business models – similar to car leasing concepts – including the provision of fully-managed equipment services, pay-per-use and incentivised return and reuse.

“By keeping control of the [critical raw materials] that can be harvested for reuse or eventual recycling, we can preserve valuable resources for future generations.”