You may not have thought much about the carbon footprint you create when going to the doctor. However, you create a lot of emissions traveling to and from appointments, as does your provider. Additionally, keeping medical records the old-fashioned way costs countless trees annually.
Fortunately, telehealth offers an eco-friendlier way to get the care you need. Read on to discover how health care is going greener with the assistance of new technology.
What Is Telehealth? How Does It Help?
Telehealth’s roots lie in helping people in rural communities access care they otherwise could not. People who live in small towns or farming areas may live hundreds of miles from the nearest specialist. This creates a tremendous amount of logistical problems.
For example, it used to be that someone who needs to travel 400 miles to see a neurologist had to take a full day off work. This distance also reduced patient choice. Even medium-sized towns may have only had one specialist, meaning patients often had no choice in physician.
Today, people living in these regions can get an MRI at a nearby hospital or imaging center. Labs can transmit test results to specialists anywhere in the nation, sometimes even the globe. These specialists then evaluate the exam and recommend a course of care without ever seeing the patient live.
Telehealth offers hope to patients with mental health as well as physical needs. For example, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners can legally prescribe antidepressants and other needed medication based on virtual consultations with the affected individual. This reduces the number of no-shows due to transportation concerns.
The advent of telehealth solved the problems of many in rural areas when it came to traveling to appointments. However, practitioners soon realized how this technology can benefit those in urban regions, too. Telehealth decreases the number of cars on the road, benefiting human health and the planet.
Air pollution claims 6.4 million lives each year, many of them children. It aggravates the symptoms of diseases like asthma and may exacerbate the suffering of those with chronic inflammatory conditions. Exposure to pollutants exposes your body’s cells to free radicals. Free radicals cause mutations that can lead to cancer and other diseases.
Furthermore, unchecked global warming leads to an increase in the magnitude of natural disasters. Recently, Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, and updated reports indicate at least 600 people remain missing in its wake. If we want to improve health outcomes overall, we need to take measures to protect the planet now. And telehealth offers one way to do so.
Patients Do Not Have to Travel
Every time you get behind the wheel, you produce carbon emissions. Burning one gallon of gas releases 20 pounds of carbon emissions, resulting in an average of six tons per vehicle annually. If a patient has to travel hundreds of miles to visit a provider, that’s a substantial increase in the amount of carbon pollution.
It also impacts the environment when patients need to secure lodging for the night. Hotel laundries use a ton of water and electricity. Many travelers unwittingly take home tiny shampoo and body wash samples without considering the environmental cost of petroleum to produce the packaging.
Providers Can Stay at Home as Well
Many providers, particularly specialists, gravitate to urban areas to serve the largest patient population. Traffic congestion in such areas leads to significant smog. For example, Los Angeles has ranked number one for the worst air quality in the nation for 19 out of the past 20 years. Telehealth allows providers to work from home the same way professionals in the computer or freelance writing sector often do.
Additionally, in prior years, rural providers needed to travel to urban hubs to receive ongoing training. Now, with telehealth, health care professionals can earn continuing education credits in the comfort of their homes. They sharpen their skills without contributing as much to climate change.
Improving Electronic Recordkeeping
The very nature of telehealth demands electronic medical recordkeeping. Providers and specialists need to access patient histories and lab results. Storing such documents in a secure cloud server decreases the need to cut down trees for paper. It also indirectly reduces the number of heavy logging trucks on the nations’ highways.
Less Need for Facility Space
Telehealth also decreases the amount of space freestanding health care facilities need. This decreases emissions as smaller facilities require less energy to heat and air condition. Eliminating even 100 square feet of office space reduces emissions by 1 metric ton each year.
Telehealth Protects Patients and the Planet
Telehealth improves patient outcomes by decreasing no-shows due to the need for travel. It reduces carbon emissions and further improves human health by eliminating significant amounts of pollution. Telehealth is undoubtedly a positive movement in the areas of healthcare and sustainability. If you think telehealth could benefit you, what are you waiting for? You can quit taking that gas guzzling car out so much, and instead try striking up an online convo with your doctor today!