Green Health: The Environmental and Personal Benefits of Telehealth Visits

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Did you know that healthcare in the US racks up around $4 trillion each year, and 25% of that whopping figure is waste? From inefficient spending to administrative waste, healthcare is a concerning factor in the ongoing battle for preserving our planet.  

The detritus isn’t just financial – transportation, operational waste, and substandard green practices also contribute to environmental decline at the hands of healthcare excess.  

Thankfully, a promising solution on the scene could significantly cut wastefulness in the healthcare industry. We’re talking about green health – more commonly referred to as telehealth services.  

Telehealth is quickly becoming an ideal service heralded for its conservation potential. From reducing carbon emissions to enhanced accessibility, let’s look at how telehealth could offer a better alternative and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future.

The Convenience of Telehealth

telehealth benefits

You know the old adage, “Time is money,” and that certainly is the case in the healthcare industry. Before telehealth, heaps of time and money were consumed on in-person doctor visits.

Commuting, waiting rooms, and administrative expenses all contribute to the excessive waste that eventually negatively impacts our environment. Quick and easy telehealth virtual care visits mean less commuting, fewer inefficiencies, and more convenience for both medical workers and patients. Not to mention, no more endless wait times in the doctor’s office, which is a win-win for everybody.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Public transportation, private cars, and daily commutes comprise about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. Done the old way, you can see how patients driving to the doctor and medical staff driving into work represent a large carbon footprint.  

Today, with the advent of virtual healthcare visits, telehealth can radically reduce carbon emissions. With more people opting to give and receive medical guidance online, that means fewer vehicles on the road and fewer environmental emissions.

Preserving Natural Resources

Reduction of carbon emissions isn’t the only planet-preserving feature telehealth potentially offers. Think about this: Over $800 billion is spent annually in the US just on medical paperwork costs alone. 

The manufacturing and production of paper produces earth-damaging pollutants. It also wreaks havoc on aquatic ecosystems. And the irony of ironies – paper production is known to threaten human health near paper processing mills.  

Much of this damage can be significantly reduced with telehealth services because everything is digitized. No more wasteful paper for patient files or doctor’s notes. With everything held digitally, and health business conducted online, virtual healthcare is a cleaner solution. 

Mitigating Traffic Congestion

We touched on this briefly, but it bears repeating because the impact of carbon-fueled driving emissions can devastate our planet. In fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has determined that telehealth visits have saved approximately 7.5 million driving miles, which equates to over 5 million kilograms of CO2 emissions savings. 

In short, telehealth plays a pivotal role in reducing individuals’ commutes to medical facilities. The fewer people who have to drive to a medical office for treatment (or for their job), the healthier our planet could be due to lowered greenhouse gasses from transportation. 

Encouraging Routine Health Monitoring

environmental and personal benefits of telehealth services

When you consider that hospitals in the US are responsible for approximately 5 million tons of waste each year, regular digital checkups can reduce that alarming figure. How so?  

Well, regular health checkups are a preventative move – and they can potentially keep individuals out of the hospital, thus reducing waste. In other words, using virtual healthcare for prevention equates to staying out of the hospital, which can result in reduced hospital waste.

Accessibility for Rural Areas

Virtual healthcare visits allow people in the country with limited to no access to transportation to get the help they need without physically attending a doctor’s appointment. This is an advantage for rural communities because people can get the medical help they need. It’s also a bonus for our planet because it means fewer long-distance trips into town, thus lowering greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Reduction in Construction Emissions

Because telehealth is conducted online, this is another big boon for conservation. To explain, construction creates substantial negative impacts on the environment. With fewer clinics and medical centers needed to conduct business, that means fewer construction sites.  

It also means less waste that is commonly created in medical office spaces.  

Moreover, medical offices are heavy users of resources such as electricity and other machines that emit carbon dioxide. Ultimately, the cessation of the construction of medical sites, in addition to fewer running brick-and-mortar clinics, can positively impact our environment.

The Downsides of Telehealth Services

telehealth downsides

While telehealth offers undeniable convenience and accessibility, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations. 

Physical examinations, essential for some diagnoses, are impossible virtually. Technological glitches can disrupt consultations, and privacy concerns linger around data security. 

Limited access to technology and broadband further widens the healthcare equity gap. Building trust and rapport with a provider can be challenging through a screen, potentially affecting care continuity. 

Finally, relying solely on telehealth might miss subtle, non-verbal cues, leading to misdiagnosis or inadequate treatment plans. Addressing these downsides remains crucial for responsible and equitable healthcare delivery as this technology evolves.

Looking to the Future

Perhaps the most interesting fact about telehealth and its positive impact on our planet is that it was born from necessity. COVID-19 pushed virtual healthcare visits to such an extent that telehealth is becoming a modern convenience rather than an anomaly.

That said, it’s crucial for state and federal governments, along with pharmaceutical and medical healthcare companies, to continue to move forward to make telehealth and other “green” options available for the safekeeping of our beautiful planet.

Conclusion

As the internet and technology advance, individual health and planetary well-being are becoming more of a reality. To ensure lasting protection of our planet and its resources, please consider something as seemingly small and insignificant as choosing telehealth as an alternative to the usual trips to the doctor to obtain medical services. 

Ultimately, telehealth is one of the brilliant ways to stay healthy while ensuring future generations can enjoy a healthy planet. 

  • Sierra Linden

    Sierra is a dedicated environmental writer, specializing in sustainable living and ecological conservation. With a background in Environmental Science, she has a knack for translating complex ecological concepts into engaging narratives. Her work focuses on inspiring action towards a more sustainable future.

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