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      Impact of a Telemedicine Program on the Reduction in the Emission of Atmospheric Pollutants and Journeys by Road

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          Abstract

          This retrospective study evaluates the effect of a telemedicine program developed in the central Catalan region in lowering the environmental footprint by reducing the emission of atmospheric pollutants, thanks to a reduction in the number of hospital visits involving journeys by road. Between January 2018 and June 2019, a total of 12,322 referrals were made to telemedicine services in the primary care centers, avoiding a total of 9034 face-to-face visits. In total, the distance saved was 192,682 km, with a total travel time saving of 3779 h and a total fuel reduction of 11,754 L with an associated cost of €15,664. This represents an average reduction of 3248.3 g of carbon dioxide, 4.05 g of carbon monoxide, 4.86 g of nitric oxide and 3.2 g of sulphur dioxide. This study confirms that telemedicine reduces the environmental impact of atmospheric pollutants emitted by vehicles by reducing the number of journeys made for face-to-face visits, and thus contributing to environmental sustainability.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Estimating travel reduction associated with the use of telemedicine by patients and healthcare professionals: proposal for quantitative synthesis in a systematic review

          Background A major benefit offered by telemedicine is the avoidance of travel, by patients, their carers and health care professionals. Unfortunately, there is very little published information about the extent of avoided travel. We propose to undertake a systematic review of literature which reports credible data on the reductions in travel associated with the use of telemedicine. Method The conventional approach to quantitative synthesis of the results from multiple studies is to conduct a meta analysis. However, too much heterogeneity exists between available studies to allow a meaningful meta analysis of the avoided travel when telemedicine is used across all possible settings. We propose instead to consider all credible evidence on avoided travel through telemedicine by fitting a linear model which takes into account the relevant factors in the circumstances of the studies performed. We propose the use of stepwise multiple regression to identify which factors are significant. Discussion Our proposed approach is illustrated by the example of teledermatology. In a preliminary review of the literature we found 20 studies in which the percentage of avoided travel through telemedicine could be inferred (a total of 5199 patients). The mean percentage avoided travel reported in the 12 store-and-forward studies was 43%. In the 7 real-time studies and in a single study with a hybrid technique, 70% of the patients avoided travel. A simplified model based on the modality of telemedicine employed (i.e. real-time or store and forward) explained 29% of the variance. The use of store and forward teledermatology alone was associated with 43% of avoided travel. The increase in the proportion of patients who avoided travel (25%) when real-time telemedicine was employed was significant (P = 0.014). Service planners can use this information to weigh up the costs and benefits of the two approaches.
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            Telehealth services in rural and remote Australia: a systematic review of models of care and factors influencing success and sustainability.

            With the escalating costs of health care, issues with recruitment and retention of health practitioners in rural areas, and poor economies of scale, the question of delivering people to services or services to people is a dilemma for health authorities around the world. People living in rural areas have poorer health outcomes compared to their urban counterparts, and the problem of how to provide health care and deliver services in rural locations is an ongoing challenge. Telehealth services can efficiently and effectively improve access to healthcare for people living in rural and remote areas of Australia. However, telehealth services are not mainstream or routinely available in many rural and remote locations. The barriers to integration of telehealth into mainstream practice have been well described, but not the factors that may influence the success and sustainability of a service. Our aim was to collate, review and synthesise the available literature regarding telehealth services in rural and remote locations of Australia, and to identify the factors associated with their sustained success.
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              Carbon Footprint of Telemedicine Solutions - Unexplored Opportunity for Reducing Carbon Emissions in the Health Sector

              Background The healthcare sector is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions, in part due to extensive travelling by patients and health workers. Objectives To evaluate the potential of telemedicine services based on videoconferencing technology to reduce travelling and thus carbon emissions in the healthcare sector. Methods A life cycle inventory was performed to evaluate the carbon reduction potential of telemedicine activities beyond a reduction in travel related emissions. The study included two rehabilitation units at Umeå University Hospital in Sweden. Carbon emissions generated during telemedicine appointments were compared with care-as-usual scenarios. Upper and lower bound emissions scenarios were created based on different teleconferencing solutions and thresholds for when telemedicine becomes favorable were estimated. Sensitivity analyses were performed to pinpoint the most important contributors to emissions for different set-ups and use cases. Results Replacing physical visits with telemedicine appointments resulted in a significant 40–70 times decrease in carbon emissions. Factors such as meeting duration, bandwidth and use rates influence emissions to various extents. According to the lower bound scenario, telemedicine becomes a greener choice at a distance of a few kilometers when the alternative is transport by car. Conclusions Telemedicine is a potent carbon reduction strategy in the health sector. But to contribute significantly to climate change mitigation, a paradigm shift might be required where telemedicine is regarded as an essential component of ordinary health care activities and not only considered to be a service to the few who lack access to care due to geography, isolation or other constraints.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                ijerph
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                MDPI
                1661-7827
                1660-4601
                08 November 2019
                November 2019
                : 16
                : 22
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Health Promotion in Rural Areas Research Group, Institut Català de la Salut, 08272 Sant Fruitós de Bages, Spain
                [2 ]Unitat de Suport a la Recerca de la Catalunya Central, Fundació Institut Universitari per a la Recerca a l’Atenció Primària de Salut Jordi Gol i Gurina, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
                [3 ]Faculty of Social Sciences, Universitat de Vic-Universitat Central de Catalunya, 08242 Manresa, Spain
                [4 ]TIC Salut Social-Ministry of Health, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
                [5 ]CRES&CEXS-Pompeu Fabra University, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
                [6 ]Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, Catalan Ministry of Health, 08950 Barcelona, Spain
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: jvidal.cc.ics@ 123456gencat.cat (J.V.-A.); jfranch@ 123456umanresa.cat (J.F.-P.)
                Article
                ijerph-16-04366
                10.3390/ijerph16224366
                6888368
                31717386
                © 2019 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                Categories
                Article

                Public health

                primary care, telemedicine, carbon dioxide, air pollutants, vehicle emissions

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