Telemedicine and the Environment

Stanford Health Care (SHC) examined the environmental impact of in-person and virtual clinic visits from 2019 to 2021. Despite a 13% rise in clinic visits, SHC experienced a notable 36% decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly due to expanded telemedicine services. Telemedicine helped SHC avoid about 17,000 metric tons of GHGs in 2021 alone. Departments such as psychiatry and cancer saw even greater reductions in GHG emissions as they were able to conduct more virtual visits.

While telemedicine cannot entirely replace in-person visits, it plays a crucial role in mitigating environmental impact. Telehealth not only reduces GHGs from patient travel but also positively impacts chronic health outcomes affected by pollution, such as COPD and cardiovascular health.

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