Three new programs for a sustainable healthcare

Researchers from TU Delft, Erasmus MC and Erasmus University Rotterdam are teaming up to work on sustainable healthcare. Within three research programmes, they are committed to sustainable operating rooms, endoscopy and innovation for nurses.

The new sustainability programs are SMART OR 2030, Technological Innovations for Nurses, and Transition toward Zero Emission Endoscopy. They will operate within Convergence for Health & Technology and receive 200,000 euros annually for four years from Erasmus MC.

‘We face major challenges in healthcare, such as increasing demand for care with a tight labour market and limited resources. In addition, as a healthcare system, we harm our environment with all the waste we produce. Only together can we sustainably solve these challenges’, says Stefan Sleijfer, chairman of Erasmus MC’s Executive Board.

The operating room of the future

In the operating room of the future, AI and technological innovations will be used to plan, optimally deploy available resources and support staff. It is with this dream that Erasmus MC clinical technologist Bart Cornelissen, TU Delft associate professor Theresia van Essen and Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management associate professor Martina Buljac set to work on the ‘SMART OR 2030’ project.

Cornelissen: ‘There is scarcity in the OR; the capacity cannot cope with the increasing demand for care. We want to investigate how we can make the OR more efficient with technological innovations while improving the well-being of our OR colleagues.’

OK in het Erasmus MC
Foto: Phil Nijhuis

Innovations for nurses

‘The workload for nurses is high,’ says Erasmus MC professor of nursing science Monique van Dijk. ‘Technological innovations could ease the workload, but their implementation is often complex. The risk is that they end up not being used in day-to-day practice. Or, as TU Delft professor of human-robot interaction David Abbink also puts it: ‘Robots often end up gathering dust in a corner.’

Together with EUR professor of sociology of healthcare Iris Wallenburg, Abbink and van Dijk are the project leaders of ‘Technological innovations for nurses, improving efficiency and workplace attractiveness’. From the start, five postdocs will work with a team of nurses, as done in a previous pilot, ensuring successful implementation. Van Dijk: ‘This project is for and with nurses.’

Sustainable endoscopy

The endoscopy department is the third largest department in a hospital in terms of environmental impact. That has to change, according to Erasmus MC hospital pharmacist and program coordinator Research Sustainable Care Nicole Hunfeld, TU Delft professor Design for Inclusive Sustainable System Interventions Jan Carel Diehl, EUR professor of Purchasing & Supply Management in Healthcare Erik van Raaij and Erasmus MC Gastrointestinal-Lever doctors Peter Siersema and Pieter-Jan de Jonge of the ‘Transition towards Zero Emission Endoscopy’ (ZEE) consortium.

By uniting expertise from the three institutes, they want to analyze the flow of materials from the endoscopy department and develop interventions with less environmental impact. Hunfeld: ‘We have to reduce the ecological footprint of healthcare. And we would like to start with the transition to sustainable endoscopy.’


The programs align with one of the three Sustainable Health missions.

  • Keeping the population in good health for at least five years longer: prevention using technology and/or AI.
  • Reducing the impact of hospital care on our environment: the ecological footprint of healthcare.
  • Ensuring long-term sustainability of care: deployment of staff and their well-being supported by technology and/or AI for more efficient and effective care.