Telehealth cutting patients costs and carbon footprints

Research conducted by the University of California has uncovered telehealth has helped slash patients costs and prescribed the planet with fewer CO2 emissions.

Health researchers from the university looked at data from five university health care systems over the pandemic’s first two years and revealed substantial savings for the environment and patients.

cars parked on parking lot under white clouds and blue sky during daytime

The study found the number of patients who used telehealth, a virtual home health service, axed the need to commute 53,664,391 miles, which equates to 113 round trips from Earth to the Moon. Additionally, the digital service overall saved an estimated $33,540,244 on travel-related costs and 204 years on travel time.

Broken down, experts discovered one patient who chose to use a telehealth service avoided travelling 17.6 miles, spending around 35 minutes travelling to an in-person visit and paying an estimated $11 for travel expenses.

Likewise, researchers found CO2 emissions had reduced by an estimated 21,466 metric tons over the two years due to fewer vehicle trips.

Lead author of the study, Sristi Sharma, said: ‘Our study documented the many benefits of utilising telehealth for ambulatory visits.

‘It is the first, large-scale study to evaluate the round-trip distance, time, cost-saving, and greenhouse gas emissions prevented from telehealth use during the pandemic.’

The team looked at data from health systems from Davis, San Francisco, LA, Irvine, and San Diego. Experts calculated the round-up trip distance, travel time, travel costs, injuries, fatalities avoided, and greenhouse gas emissions that patients would have generated had they gone for in-person appointments.

Serving close to 40 million people, the state-wide university system reported 16.8 million outpatient visits between January 2020 and December 2021, of which 18% were telehealth visits.

After the study, which has been published in the Journal of Telemedicine and eHealth, was concluded, researchers claimed the digital service to be safe and cost effective and recommended it to be used even though the pandemic has ended.

According to data reported by IBISWorld in October 2022, the market size of Telehealth data is expected to rise by 11.4% in the UK following the market increasing by 20% in the past five years, signalling a keen interest.

The current crisis the NHS is facing, including a serious backlog of hospital beds and severe staffing issues, could benefit from patients resulting to using telehealth services as they would be receiving safe care whilst reducing pressures on NHS professionals. 

Photo by Jacek Dylag


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