May 5, 2011

Impact of Use of Healthcare Information Technology on Environment

Optimum use of technology in healthcare can work wonders on many parameters. It improves patient safety. It streamlines use of hospital resources. It betters regulatory compliance. Patient satisfaction and physician efficiency is increased.But there's another parameter which has never been measured before : Impact of use of healthcare information technology on environment.

An analysis by Kaiser Permanente shows that use of health information technology can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce other important environmental savings.The analysis found that comprehensive use of health IT by Kaiser Permanente:

  • Avoided the use of 1,044 tons of paper for medical charts annually
  • Eliminated up to 92,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by replacing face-to-face patient visits (and the associated travel) with virtual visits
  • Avoided 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by filling prescriptions online
  • Reduced the use of toxic chemicals, such as silver nitrate and hydroquinone, by 33.3 tons by digitizing and archiving X-ray images and other scans
  • Resulted in a positive net effect on the environment despite increased energy use and additional waste from the use of personal computer

Though paper based records are legally still required in India (for 5 to 15 years, depending on type of record and location of institution), the numerous benefits of health IT and use of electronic medical records by hospitals and physicians cannot be ignored.
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