Sustainable Health Systems - Medical Cold Chains

Across all sectors, industries and organizations, sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Sustainable health systems play a crucial role in societal health and welfare, which makes them even more critical.

Sustainable health systems - Medical cold chains

Image Credit: B Medical Systems

An environmentally sustainable health system is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one that ‘improves, maintains, or restores health while minimizing the negative impact on the environment and leveraging opportunities to restore and improve it to the benefit of the health and well-being of current and future generations.’

Discussions about sustainable health systems revolve a lot around emissions, even though this is one of the multiple different components.

A medical cold chain is one of the contributors to emissions in a health system. Laboratories, hospitals, and other research or medical institutions use cold chains every day in their operations, and these products can sometimes be very energy-intensive and produce significant CO2 emissions.

The medical cold chain, temperature sensitivity, and emissions

The stability of many compounds can be affected by temperature, which therefore plays a crucial role in molecular dynamics. The higher the temperature is, the higher the likelihood that the thermal energy will cause chemical compositions to break and form more stable ones. High temperatures, in the medical world, can change molecules in various medications, which can reduce their effectiveness.

This issue can happen to samples like blood and vaccines as they are both thermosensitive biological products. Important components within each of these can degrade if they get exposed to sub-optimal temperatures, which diminishes their potency.

The research and clinical utility of these biologicals is lost if this happens. It is therefore understandably critical to ensure medicines, vaccines and biological samples are protected from temperature variations and safely stored and transported across their supply chain networks.

The ideal solution is the medical cold chain: the name given to the network of medical-grade freezers, refrigerators, and transport solutions designed to keep biological materials at their ideal temperature throughout the distribution process.

These solutions are also some of the most energy-consuming devices in the healthcare industry, despite the fact that they play a crucial role in maintaining the intended temperature required by many biologicals. Furthermore, these units run the risk of causing harmful emissions and affecting the environment, given several of them use non-green refrigerants.

The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) based refrigerants were common up until a few decades ago and found across the world in refrigeration solutions.

Eventually, these refrigerants came under scrutiny due to the severe damage they were causing to the ozone layer and their greenhouse effect: they are now widely known for their significant Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and Global Warming Potential (GWP).

Therefore, these products naturally began to be phased out, and, during the same period, the development of a new type of refrigerants came to the fore: Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. These gases quickly found widespread applications thanks to the fact that they had no measurable effect on the ozone layer, but unfortunately, it rapidly became evident that these were far from being harmless as they were, in fact, powerful greenhouse gases, causing a global warming effect up to 23,000 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2).

The international community triggered several regulations around HFCs and the use of refrigerants with high GWP, as HFCs became the fastest-growing source of greenhouse emissions worldwide, which therefore paved the way for the adoption of natural refrigerants.

The most prominent of these regulations are the EU F-Gas regulations and the US SNAP program. Today, several cold chain products continue to harm the environment because their emissions still exist, even though more manufacturers of these devices have started switching to green gas and natural refrigerant models.

The challenge of sustainability for hospitals

Hospitals are at the center of many clinical activities like blood transfusions, surgeries, and treatments, among others. This means that they often need to preserve many different types of biologicals, including vaccines, medicines, and various types of samples, which are often thermosensitive.

To achieve this, an extensive cold chain is required to meet the many different temperature requirements of the thermosensitive specimens. As a result, hospitals are at the forefront of discussions on how sustainable and climate-friendly high-quality care can be.

Furthermore, as new requirements add to the existing demands for good healthcare services and the constraints of disproportionate funding, today’s healthcare systems remain under tremendous pressure from the pandemic.

Hospitals are therefore considering how to ensure that operations are reliable, environmentally friendly and low-cost. In short, hospitals are focusing on how they can create a healthier future for their communities at the same time as addressing climate-based concerns.

There is more than one advantage to healthcare institutions beginning to both understand the cold chain requirements of a healthcare system and ensure that the solutions employed are reliable, energy-efficient and use green refrigerants.

While designing sustainable infrastructure, one of the main aspects that need to be considered is the operational cost. Procurement departments often opt for cheaper products to reduce the upfront purchase costs.

However, it is important to note that there might be a significantly higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) during the product’s lifespan, as these products might feature high energy consumption and higher costs associated with HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning).

Products of mediocre quality can also result in frequent repairs or breakdowns, which can increase the cost of ownership. In extreme cases, the mediocre quality can even lead to the premature replacement of the cold chain device and premature procurement of new ones.

B Medical Systems: The range of solutions for sustainable health systems

With a long legacy of assisting global organizations and governments, B Medical Systems can handle every challenge the cold chain might bring, including issues linked to the creation of sustainable health systems.

B Medical Systems has used its expertise over the last 40+ years to help millions of children around the world access vaccines at their fullest potency, no matter where they are in the world.

B Medical Systems has been manufacturing sustainable products for over 12 years, and is well-known for bringing innovative green products to the market. The launch of Solar Direct Driver (SDD) freezers and refrigerators saw the rise of solar-powered products, which can ensure a stable and uniform intended temperature in the refrigerated space.

B Medical Systems is one of the few leaders in the market today, which offers a diverse portfolio of medical refrigeration devices using green refrigerants, ideal for building a range of sustainable health systems.

The team continued their efforts to increase the energy efficiency of B Medical System’s devices, with custom-designed portfolios of Medical Refrigeration and Blood Management Solutions to function with green gases, to allow them to bring more sustainable products to the market.

By using green refrigerants like R600A, which has a zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and minimal Global Warming Potential (GWP), the team was able to significantly reduce harmful emissions.

Refrigeration solutions are made more energy efficient by structural features like insulated doors and sealed gaskets that both minimize cold air loss and heat conduction. These devices additionally comply with regulations like the US SNAP and the EU F-Gas. The portfolios also boast several Energy Star certified models in their ranks.

Medical-grade Pharmacy Refrigerators, Blood Bank Refrigerators, Laboratory Refrigerators, Plasma Storage Freezers, Laboratory Freezers,  Ultra-Low Freezers, and Transport Boxes are all offered to help hospitals in their sustainability efforts. These products have been designed with a meticulous focus on quality and are additionally EU MDR Class I/II(a) and US FDA Class I/II medical devices.

Across the whole product range, some of the major features of these devices are:

  • Uniform and stable temperature distribution
  • Superior holdover times and Door Opening Recovery (DOR)
  • Energy efficiency
  • Ability to operate at high ambient temperatures like +43 °C
  • 5-layer/4-layer PMMA organic glass provides superior insulation and visibility
  • Superior cabinet insulation
  • Audio-visual alarms with a rechargeable battery backup
  • 7” touchscreen for easy access control of the device
  • 24/7 Remote Monitoring
  • USB Data exports 

Lower HVAC costs are related to high energy efficiency, which translates into lower operational costs. Along with the durability and reliability of the products, this helps to guarantee a lower Total Cost of Ownership for their products. Another layer of security is facilitated for all temperature-sensitive specimens stored in the B Medical Systems product line by 24/7 remote monitoring solutions. 

Ultra-Low Freezers: Product focus 

The Ultra-Low Freezer (ULT) is typically used for long-term storage of samples at temperatures as low as -86 °C, as it is one of the most energy-intensive medical refrigeration products for sustainable health systems. Genetic materials like RNA and DNA, as well as cell and tissue samples, are just some of the biologicals stored within these devices. 

Moreover, the use of these products has been expanded by new advances in vaccine research related to COVID-19, including the storage of thermosensitive mRNA vaccines, which renders them essential for global immunization campaigns. This is partly why hospitals have begun deploying these products in large quantities, when only years before, these devices would have been used solely in a laboratory setting. 

Ultra-Low Freezers can consume as much energy as an average family household because of the extreme temperatures they need to reach. As a result of this high energy consumption, the CO2 emission potential is high. In certain cases, an Ultra-Low Freezer and its related HVAC system can produce up to 100 tons of CO2 in its life span. 

B Medical System’s Ultra-Low Freezers have been carefully designed with several features which increase how energy efficient they are. These features include vacuum-insulated panels and polyurethane foam, which together form a thick insulation layer reducing the heat conduction through the cabinet walls. 

The silicon-lip gaskets and the foam provide a foolproof seal along with good thermal insulation and a reduction in frost build-up, particularly when compared to the traditional cavity-based gaskets. 

The range of Ultra-Low Freezers has two inner aluminum doors that ensure a reduction in the amount of cold air and heat conduction that is lost when the outer door is opened. 

These doors also have the functionality to close freezer sections in a way that means that cold air does not leave the entire ULT when only one shelf needs to be accessed. This, therefore, minimizes the need for the device to work overtime because it does not have to recreate the cold air that is typically lost during the door opening. 

These units also use green refrigerants to improve their cooling efficiency further. These refrigerants are both celebrated for their long-term availability and are known for their long-term availability, which ensures they are highly cost-effective. 

The key to the future: Sustainable innovation  

Today’s world changes rapidly and requires truly continuous innovation to solve ever-more-challenging issues. Of course, the important thing is to ensure that needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. 

Therefore, it is essential that governments, individuals, and companies all take some form of action to curb their environmental impact.  

Manufacturers in the medical cold chain field need to create sustainable refrigeration solutions that do not increase CO2 emissions but also allow researchers and medical professionals to continue their efforts. 

The world leader in the Vaccine Cold Chain, and a key player in the Medical Refrigeration and Blood Management Solutions field, B Medical Systems is genuinely ready for the challenge and able to provide laboratories, hospitals and vaccination centers with sustainable cold chain solutions which can consistently meet all their medical refrigeration needs. 

B Medical Systems is striving to build a sustainable infrastructure for all pharmaceutical and medical institutions, and the team is dedicated to continued innovation to help create sustainable healthcare systems around the globe.

About B Medical Systems S.à r.l

B Medical Systems S.à r.l (formely Dometic/Electrolux) is a global manufacturer and distributor of medical cold chain solutions. Based in Hosingen, Luxembourg, the company was founded in 1979, when WHO approached the Swedish manufacturing giant Electrolux to provide a solution to safely store and transport vaccines around the world. Across the 3 major business portfolios of Medical Refrigeration, Blood Management Solutions, and Vaccine Cold Chain, the company currently offers 100+ models. B Medical Systems’ major products include Laboratory Refrigerators, Laboratory Freezers, Pharmacy Refrigerators, Ultra-Low Freezers, Plasma Freezers, Contact Shock Freezers, Vaccine Refrigerators (Ice-Lined Refrigerators and Solar Direct Drive Refrigerators), and Transport Boxes. All products have integrated 24/7 temperature monitoring capabilities that further ensure that these products offer the highest level of safety and reliability.

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Last updated: Jun 28, 2022 at 10:10 AM


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