An unexpected benefit of pandemic telehealth: A smaller carbon footprint

Keyboard, notebook and stethoscope.

Dr. James Marcin, co-director of CITRIS Health and the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology, is a senior author of a new study by UC Davis Health researchers that evaluated the carbon footprint of telehealth visits compared to in-person services, finding considerable savings for both patients and the environment.

Based on the two years of appointments analyzed in the study, virtual visits helped patients avoid, on average, traveling 17.6 miles; taking up 35 minutes of time in transit; and spending roughly $11 to trek to their visit. The researchers estimated reduced greenhouse gas emissions as a result of less vehicle travel.

“Even if only 25 percent of ambulatory visits were conducted via telehealth, there would still be substantial cost savings and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” Marcin said.