Using EHR Reduces Carbon Emissions, Waste and Water Consumption, Study


Healthcare IT newsAccording to a new study published in the May issue of Health Affairs, using health information technology (Health IT) can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce other important environmental savings. The study, carried out by Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, Calif.), estimates that electronic health records (EHR) could lower carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 1.7 million tons throughout the entire U.S. population.

The study evaluated the effects of EHR use on greenhouse gases, waste, toxic chemicals and water use within the Kaiser Permanente system, which serves more than 8.7 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser Permanente operates the world's largest private electronic health record, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®.

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.
•    Achieved a positive net effect on the environment despite increased energy use and additional waste from the use of personal computers.