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Telehealth’s Potential to Reduce Medicine’s Carbon Footprint

An extensive research study recently published in The Journal of Climate Change and Health showed an escalated use of Telehealth’s services, solutions in the pacific northwest.

Telehealth’s solutions have drastically reduced transportation-generated greenhouse gas emissions.The study was a combined effort of researchers from Northwest Permanente, Brigham, the Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School.

The group examined six years of outpatient care provided at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, which is observed to serve over 600,000 people across Oregon, and Washington. Before the pandemic hit the states, despite elevating total visit volume, the transportation-derived greenhouse gas emissions had already begun to decline with the rising adoption and preferences for Telehealth’s visits, according to the observations made by the researchers.The study indicates the healthcare sector to be a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment. For example, from 2010 to 2018, emissions from the United States healthcare industry spiked by 6 percent.

Even though the source of emissions often arises directly from the healthcare facilities or indirectly via the supply chain, researchers suggest that patient transportation is also a crucial component stimulating the healthcare system’s carbon footprint.The research team traced back the total number of in-person and Telehealth’s visits from 2015 to 2020. Altogether, in-person outpatient visits escalated at a rate of 1.5% per year during 2019. However, the same value had declined drastically by 46.2% in 2020 amidst COVID-19.

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