Healthcare News

IHH Healthcare announces net zero and sustainability goals

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 20): Integrated healthcare provider IHH Healthcare Bhd announced on Tuesday (Sept 20) its goals to cap carbon emissions by 2025 and achieve net zero by 2050, while continuing to grow the business. 

The company also unveiled its sustainability goals, which are encapsulated in the four pillars of patients, people, the public and planet. It aims to be the most trusted private healthcare provider and employer of choice in private healthcare in all its markets by 2025, and touch five million lives by building healthier communities by 2025. 

The targets under each pillar are time-bound, science-based and aligned to eight of the relevant United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, according to IHH.

“What’s important is that we act today to build a better tomorrow. That means we set concrete, short-term and medium-term goals, and we track the progress of our action plans against these targets. We will disclose our progress as we make our sustainability report each year,” said Dr Kelvin Loh, the managing director and chief executive officer of IHH. 

The company, which has 80 hospitals in 10 countries, is already implementing several major programmes under these pillars.

One of the programmes is the expansion of its value-driven outcomes (VDO) initiative globally to tackle medical inflation. The VDO initiative aims to improve outcomes and care for patients while reducing costs. Its hospitals in Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and India are already participating in the VDO. 

“What this means is that we measure the clinical outcomes of procedures that we do, then we track the cost of various items and procedures over time. We do an analysis with regard to what is actually most effective, and produce outcomes,” said Loh. 

“We remove those that are not effective. In this way, we can help bend the medical inflation cost curve.”

Based on the data collected, improvements in procedures can be made. IHH aims to achieve 90% of VDO outcomes at or above international benchmarks by 2025. 

The company is also taking action to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites evolve over time and no longer respond to medicines. 

This makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of severe illness and deaths. The World Health Organization has declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. 

“It is now one of the biggest pandemics in our lifetimes. In fact, it is a hidden pandemic that we don’t see. In 2019, these superbugs or drug-resistant bacteria actually killed five million people. That’s more than Covid-19 in 2020,” said Loh. 

The main driver of AMR is the inappropriate or overuse of antibiotics. Loh recalled a patient who died just over a week after a successful knee replacement surgery due to an infection caused by a superbug. 

“Today, it’s not just affecting one individual. It’s becoming a huge pandemic. At IHH, we will take leadership on this topic. We will drive [initiatives] across the group with what we call our Antimicrobial Stewardship Programme to promote the responsible use of antibiotics,” said Loh.

On the other hand, IHH is working with Malaysia’s Ministry of Health to fully sponsor radiotherapy and radiosurgery for 500 cancer patients in the bottom 40% income group from government hospitals. These patients will receive treatment at IHH hospitals in Malaysia. 

“This partnership is the first phase [of the programme and will go on] for 12 months. We’ll see how the programme goes. We’re really happy that we’re able to start with this, and I think there’s room to expand that beyond the first 12 months,” said Loh. 

Under the planet pillar, IHH aims to achieve its net zero goal by increasing energy efficiency and assessing renewable energy options, among other things. It hopes to complete its carbon footprint baseline studies across its operations by year end.

On the other hand, IHH has committed to reducing single-use virgin plastics by 90% in non-clinical areas by 2023, starting from 20 hospitals in Malaysia and Singapore. It became the first healthcare company to partner with the World Wildlife Fund’s Plastic ACTion initiative, which aims to reduce waste and move towards a circular economy. 

Single-use plastics in clinical areas, such as personal protective equipment, are more difficult to eliminate due to safety reasons. 

“We are drawing a line to say that for what we can stop using, let’s do so. In all non-clinical areas, let’s clear that out. In clinical areas, let’s find ways [to achieve the goal]. Maybe there are recyclable materials that we can use and progress towards that. But remember, we are in healthcare. Our job is first and foremost to save lives and put clinical outcomes first,” said Loh. 

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