We talk a lot about the benefits of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). We accept that EMRs promote patient safety, encourage care quality, save cost and time, allow for accountability in the healthcare industry, but we forget to mention the benefits of EMR adoption in regards to the sustainability of our environment.
Doctors at George Washington University have estimated that complete conversion to Electronic Medical Records saves around 2000 pieces of paper per physician on an annual basis. If we assume that this figure is accurate and 100,000 practicing doctors have completely converted to Electronic Medical Records, then around 0.2 billion pieces of paper are being saved each year. According to research, An average tree provides around 80,000 sheets of paper. This essentially means that if every doctor in the United States uses EMRs, the country could save thousands of trees every year.
We can therefore extrapolate from the above information that apart from obvious benefits such as improving patient safety, care quality and cost optimization, usage of EMR also reduces paper and hence saves trees which are valuable for the health of our planet.
Research according to ‘Globodox’ states, that there are 8 million physicians, 200,000 dentists, 5000 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes and 200,000 laboratories present in the United States today. Most of these use a medical records system based on paper. On average, a single patient needs 11 sheets of paper and the care provider sees between 75 to 100 patients in a week. This means that each week, one thousand to fifteen hundred sheets of paper are used.
The research also found out that around 3 in 10 tests are re-conducted just because the information was lost. The use of Electronic Medical Records saves the amount of paper used on a daily basis. It also saves time for the staff that does not have to rely on hand written notes for every single procedure and minimizes the risk of data loss.
Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare provider committed to keeping the environment healthy, conducted an audit after its conversion to Electronic Health Records and found out that by shifting to Electronic Health Records it had approximately eliminated 1000 tons of paper records, 68 tons of x-ray film, 38 tons of toxic chemical used to process x-ray films, saving 71.5 million gallons of water per year and by reducing medical visits, saved 3 million gallons of gasoline.
Kathy Gerwig, VP for Workplace Safety and Environmental Stewardship says, “There is a strong correlation between environmental health and the health of our communities. As health care providers, it is our responsibility to reduce our negative impact on the environment and ‘do no harm.” She added, “The results of this study show that the healthcare sector is on the way to improving our environment through the broader adoption of Electronic Health Records.”
Terhilda Garrido, VP of HIT Transformation and Analytics said, “Prior to this study, the benefits of electronic health records were categorized primarily by their impact on the quality of care and potential to improve efficiency. As the country increases its ‘meaningful use’ of HIT, we should consider other macro impacts as well.”
The report also highlighted the fact that transition to Electronic Health Records in the United States could result in reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by at least 1.7 million tons across the country. This leaves no doubt that usage of Electronic Medical Records is not only beneficial for population health; it is also beneficial for the health of our planet and enables environment sustainability.
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