From the term global warming to climate change, how we view sustainable measures continues to evolve. Many of us are aware of recycling, consuming less meat and using less plastic to help the environment. These can be seen as personal measures we take to be more environmentally conscious. But, professionally, what can you do to have a lasting and positive impact on the environment?
A study by UC Davis Health researchers assessed telehealth visits’ carbon footprint and their potential savings in lives, costs and time compared to in-person visits. It included data from five University of California health care systems over the pandemic’s first two years. The study found substantial savings for patients and the environment, including eliminating the need to commute 53,664,391 miles – that’s 113 round trips from Earth to the moon! Telehealth also saved an estimated 204 years of travel time, $33,540,244 travel-related costs and 42.4 injuries and 0.7 fatalities.
Hospitals are a major contributor to the waste problem, producing more than 29 pounds of waste per occupied bed per day, according to Practice Greenhealth, a healthcare sustainability organization. That’s more than 5 million tons of waste each year.
The majority (85%) of healthcare waste is non-hazardous, according to the World Health Organization. Items such as personal protective equipment, old medical devices and plastic packaging contribute the most waste. With each in-person office visit, additional waste is accumulated as your staff will disinfect the room for the next patient. Replacing physical visits, where the patient and doctor have to drive to the facility, with a virtual appointment can lead to a 40 to 70 times decrease in carbon emissions.
Introducing new resources into your healthcare setting that can ease your workflow and benefit the environment can vastly improve your efficiency and make a big impact. Remote patient monitoring is one such step. As you introduce a new element into your practice that has the potential to reduce carbon emissions, you’re influencing your patients’ behavior by curtailing the number of car trips they make to your office. Together, these are initiatives that can provide a lasting and positive impact on the earth.