Telehealth May Help Reduce Carbon Footprint of Medical Sector
Reducing Carbon Footprint of Medical Sector with Telehealth
Healthcare and climate protection are two different things. Nobody has cared about improving the climate through medical practice. As per the recent study, over 17% of carbon emissions come from Medical Practices and the medical vehicles used to transport equipment. And 71% are derived from the healthcare and medical supply chain.
The Journal of Climate Change and Health has conducted a study on a large scale and published its report on how Telehealth can reduce the medicine’s carbon footprint. The increased use of Telehealth reduces transportation-related needs.
The study was conducted by a team of Northwest Permanente, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School collaboratively. Since nobody was paying attention to the carbon footprint in the healthcare industry, the team of researchers has thought of improving the climate by increasing the use of Telehealth.
Does it really matter?
Most of us are completely unaware of the carbon emissions through the healthcare industry. We believe that carbon emissions occur while driving vehicles only. But that’s not the case. There are many resources from which the level of carbon emissions is increasing day by day from which the health sector is the primary resource.
The study found that during the period of 2010 to 2018, the carbon emissions by the US healthcare industry has increased by 6 percent. This is worrisome as people are completely unaware of it.
As noted above, most of the emissions come through the medical and healthcare supply chain, we can reduce it by adopting new ways of dealing with such businesses. The study has further stated that most of the carbon emissions come through the transportation services used by patients to reach out to clinics and vice versa.
There is no detailed study conducted on the same during the pandemic period. The use of medical supplies and transportation has increased during the pandemic period. There is no regional healthcare system active to collect the data on carbon emissions across the United States.
With the growing popularity of the Internet and its related devices, many people now use the telehealth method than visiting the clinic in person. In fact, medical practitioners and professionals now provide consultation of their services through WhatsApp and voice calls. This shows the increased number of telehealth usage in recent months.
The Surprising Results
The researchers have collected the data of patients who visit the clinics’ in-person and via telehealth from the year 2016 to 2020. They calculated the distance between their home and the clinic and collected all the transportation-related data by the public and private vehicles.
They noticed surprising results as the ratio of in-person clinic visits and via telehealth is equal i.e. 1:1. In the year 2019, in-person clinic visits had increased by 1.5%. However, post-pandemic, the same is decreased by 46.2% in last year. If we talk about the present condition, more and more people now consult their family physically over the phone.
With the use of the latest technology and advanced gadgets, doctors can now provide their services through video calls and other sources of communication. Patients can transfer the fees via digital medium.
Talking about the medicines, patients can order medicines online from different websites or mobile apps. The ordered medicines will be delivered within 24 hours to their doorstep.
The Telehealth visits jumped by 108.5% in the year 2020. This shows the positive impact of Covid-19 as the same trend will be followed in the coming years. Patients don’t have to visit the clinic just for a consultation. They can get the same service right from their home through Telehealth.
What researchers have found post their study is the greenhouse gas emissions from patient’s in-person visits and other transportation services fell from 19,659 tons CO2-eq in 2019 to 10,537 tons CO2-eq in 2020.
The collected data itself shows that people have started using Telehealth services. The number of annual visits to clinics by patients is declined. Besides transportation and in-person visits by patients to clinics, some other sources can also add a few percentages of emissions working in the same sector. Computer equipment and its related uses can also increase carbon emissions. The researchers didn’t involve such things in their study.
The above-listed ratio of 1:1 for in-person visits and telehealth visits can be different as many in-person visits by patients are not reported by the clinics. Still, “our study likely underestimates emissions reductions as we did not account for decreased commuting by healthcare providers conducting telehealth visits from home,” the researchers wrote.
The fuel cost and other costs that patients have to pay for their transportation to seek medical assistance are also worrisome. If people begin using Telehealth services, they can save a lot of money every year.
Researchers and scientists across the globe are now working collaboratively to conduct the data from the clinics and healthcare providers to analyze. We hope to see the positive side of the Telehealth sector in the coming years. We have to look after the environment as we are the ones who are destroying it and making the climate imbalance.