One of the biggest benefits of internet saturation is that it allows us to do so much without having to leave home (or the office). Shopping, banking, and paying bills are just three examples of activities that can now be done regularly with a few keystrokes or clicks.
Why would anyone go back to the days of having to drive or walk from retailer to retailer to compare price and selection when you can do it instantly, online? And isn’t it great to be able to Skype or FaceTime a far-away family member whenever it’s convenient rather than waiting until long distance phone rates drop to make a phone call?
A side benefit of using the internet to take care of so many tasks is that it has the potential to reduce road traffic and the environmental effects associated with all that driving.
Telemedicine and Environmental Responsibility
Telemedicine is an emerging use of the internet that has the potential for far-reaching environmental benefits. A study by researchers at the University of California Davis evaluated travel costs (both monetarily and in terms of time and pollution) associated with nearly 20,000 medical visits over the course of 18 years at UC Davis Health in Sacramento.
The study found that telemedicine visits saved patients:
- Almost nine years of travel time
- Five million commuting miles
- $3 million
- 2,000 metric tons of CO2
- 3.7 metric tons of nitrogen oxides
- 5.5 metric tons of volatile organic compounds
- 50 metric tons of CO
Convenience Is an Added Bonus
Not only can telemedicine be easier on the environment than traditional doctor visits, the convenience is unbeatable. Who feels like getting in the car and driving to the doctor’s office for yet another sinus infection when it can be diagnosed via telemedicine, with an e-prescription being sent automatically to the patient’s favorite pharmacy?
And during flu season, the possibility of being exposed to flu in a waiting room while waiting to be seen for some other minor malady can be downright scary, particularly for people who have no choice but to take their kids with them.
Telemedicine Plus Telecommuting Yielding Multiple Benefits
Companies that offer telemedicine benefits either independently or through their insurer can save significantly on company medical costs and reduce the amount of time workers have to be out of the office to visit a doctor in person. Companies that offer both telemedicine and telecommuting can prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gasses being pumped into the air every year.
When computer giant Dell implemented a telecommuting option, they prevented around 1.15 Metric Tons of carbon dioxide emissions per employee per year, and this is after accounting for increased home electricity use and emissions due to use of IT infrastructure.
Overcoming Objections to Telemedicine
Lack of awareness of telemedicine options and lack of knowledge about how to use it are two primary barriers to increased use of telemedicine. Companies and insurers that want to promote telemedicine as a cost-saving measure must be sure people know it’s an option and know how to use it.
It’s also important to dispel the myth that quality of care with telemedicine is lower than it is with standard doctor visits. When companies and their employees save measurable money and time due to telemedicine, and experience smaller premium increases from year to year, they experience for themselves why telemedicine is such a great option. Companies benefit from lower absenteeism as well.
Telemedicine offers obvious convenience and cost savings, but in addition, it can promote better stewardship of the environment. Savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions have been impressive so far, and at the rate that telemedicine use is increasing, those savings are expected to rise every year. AccessRx.com invites you to learn more about telemedicine and other health-related topics that matter to you by browsing through our blog content.