Health Catalyst’s Earth Week Digital Clean-Up

Posted in Feature Articles

For many years Health Catalyst has been committed to educating the healthcare industry on the impact healthcare waste has on hospitals’ and health systems’ ability to achieve their clinical, operational, and financial goals. Healthcare generates an estimated $1 trillion in waste each year, including supply costs, unnecessary tests, and surgeries that aren’t clinically indicated by best practices, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Reducing healthcare waste isn’t the only transformation we’re after. This year for #EarthWeek, we’re encouraging our team members, customers, and partners to participate in a digital clean-up. Here’s why:

As the healthcare industry, and indeed the world, trend toward digitization, there’s an increasing amount of digital waste, including unnecessary emails, files, applications, photos, and videos. This digital waste continues to consume energy by taking up space on servers and cloud services, creating digital pollution with real-world ramifications.

Increased digitization has significantly reduced the 2 billion pounds of paper and cardboard waste generated by hospitals each year. But for every hospital that goes paperless, there is a growing data center footprint. These data centers have greater energy demands which, when their energy sources are left unchecked, lead to an unintentional, negative impact on our environment.

According to a report from Dell EMC and the International Data Corporation (IDC), the total volume of global healthcare data was projected to hit 2,314 exabytes in 2020. When stored on a stack of tablet computers, this amount of data would reach more than a third of the way to the moon, according to the report’s authors.

The data industry is growing exponentially. IDC projects by 2025, newly created data will be 163 zettabytes. Healthcare data makes up a notable amount of the total data created on a global scale, 3 percent, as the total world-wide data creation in 2020 was 59,000 exabytes, according to the United States International Trade Commission.

This massive amount of data requires a sizable amount of electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, data centers consume approximately 200 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, nearly one percent of global electricity demand, contributing to 0.3 percent of all global CO2 emissions. For comparison, the global aviation industry produces 2.1 percent of all human-induced CO2 emissions.

While these figures may seem insurmountable, every inbox, streamed webinar, shared drive, or Zoom meeting can help make a difference.

We’ve shared information about the true cost of digital waste with our team at Health Catalyst and numerous solutions to help inspire a collective digital clean-up. We hope you’ll join us in these efforts by participating in the following activities:

  1. Deleting and organizing emails, or sending less of them, will free up your time and storage space.
  2. Turning off the video during a conference call would save the same amount of emissions created from charging a smartphone each night for more than three years.
  3. Deleting all unnecessary files, apps, photos, and videos, will not only save a huge amount of CO2, but extend the life of our electronics, create new digital habits, and help you feel more balanced and efficient.

At Health Catalyst, we’ll be measuring the storage size of our shared drives, intranet, and email servers before and after Earth Week. We will also survey team members and plant a tree for every single team member that participates through the National Forest Foundation’s 50 Million for Our Forests fundraising campaign. Then, we’ll create and share an infographic that shows the impact of our efforts.

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