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PKB's commitment to reducing its environmental impact

Written by: Tom Gausden - 9th November 2021

A week before the first COP to discuss healthcare’s impact on the environment, Tom Gausden, Patients Know Best’s Sustainability Lead, talks below about their journey to date, future plans and their continued commitment to helping customers reduce their environmental impact, as well as improving this across its companies processes as a whole.

Along this journey, we have had, and continue to have invaluable support from partner organisations who have helped us measure impact and outputs and are continuing to support us in our mission for further improvement (with the Yorkshire and Humber AHSN deserving a special mention, especially the Propel@YH Net Zero Accelerator Programme).

Who we are and what we do

Patients Know Best (PKB) is Europe’s largest personal health record platform, enabling patients and healthcare professionals to access real-time health information – anytime, anywhere. This platform was developed to enable patients to take a more active role in their health and wellbeing, providing them with access to their health and care records, educational materials and the digital tools they require to interact with their healthcare professionals remotely. The aim is to enable self-management, shifting interactions away from face-to-face attendances, and providing interventions earlier on in a patient’s life, focusing on preventative action rather than reactive treatment.

Whilst as an innovative solution we’ve continually assessed how we can save the NHS money, free up capacity within services to treat patients that need face to face interventions and enable patients to be the drivers of their own healthcare, we’ve only recently started the journey assessing the environmental impact and savings that patient-facing solutions can bring.

We began this journey just over 18 months ago to understand what role PKB can play in avoiding the impending climate crisis – an undeniable determinant of the health and wellbeing of every citizen on the planet. An overview of this can be found here.

Our journey can be compartmentalised into three main areas:

  1. How we can quantify the reduction in the carbon footprint associated with the delivery of care,
  2. PKB’s own environmental footprint and we can minimise this, and
  3. The future – what else can we be doing to minimise our carbon impact and maximise the savings we’re generating?

Whilst we talk about all three of these areas below, it is important to note that points 2/3 are particularly important to us as a  social impact business, which we continue to commit to as part of our Benefits Corporation (BCorp) accreditation. Alongside our partnership and work noted with various companies below, we will also be looking to and utilising the BCorp community to help enhance our improvements and commitment in this area.

Quantifying and reducing the carbon footprint of health and care services

To address the first area, we started, and have continued to work closely with a number of organisations, including the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and the Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, who are playing a pivotal role in our sustainability journey. With their help, we initially identified several key deployments where PKB had reduced face-to-face appointments, avoided surgical cases (through earlier interventions, able to be delivered through increased capacity), avoided emergency admissions and avoided inpatient stays.

By combining our measures with the recognised metrics available we were able alongside these partners, to quantify the savings we had facilitated each year, publishing a snapshot view across four services (of many hundreds using the PKB platform):

Now, as part of the Propel@YH Net Zero Programme within the West Yorkshire and Harrogate ICS, we’ve also analysed the savings generated through the delivery of digital correspondence, avoiding physical postage. The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, alongside their connections in NHS Digital, allowed us to measure the reduction in carbon through avoided post – with over 325,000 letters saved this year, PKB is avoiding >44,000 kgCO2e.

PKB’s own environmental footprint

Whilst quantifying the savings that we could bring, we then started the process of truly understanding our own footprint as an organisation, acknowledging that this needed to be established and incorporated into the net impact that we deliver as a company. As a software provider with a remotely- based workforce from the company’s founding, we’ve already taken a number of steps to minimise this footprint.

Within the scope of our analysis, we wanted to cover all aspects of service delivery, ranging from our selection of hosting provider and hardware usage to staff travel and expenses. Alongside Carbon Analytics we’ve started to analyse our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions ahead of developing an action plan to combat any areas of high emissions.

The Future!

Whilst we continue to work alongside the SHC and the AHSN to develop additional case studies, we’ve also started to look at minimisation strategies for our own footprint – identifying areas where we can improve, whilst being aware that for elements core to our service delivery we’ll have to identify means of offsetting this footprint. We’re at the beginning of an important journey for ourselves and our customers but are committed to continuing to engage and commit ourselves to make further improvements as we go. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help and support of the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, who via the Propel@YH Net Zero programme, provided a sounding board and constant source of advice and guidance throughout the latter stages of our journey.

If you are a PKB customer, please get in touch with our sustainability team either via your Success or Account Manager, or via to find out how we can support you in measuring and improving your environmental impact as part of your PKB programmes of work. If you are not yet a PKB customer and would like to know more, we would also love to hear from you.