Telemedicine entered our lives some time ago with numerous advantages for the patient: 24/7 assistance, access to a broader medical chart by eliminating geographical limitations, saving time traveling and waiting, greater privacy and accessibility.
To all of them we must add the contribution it also makes to the environment. Because technology is a tool that can support the decarbonization process by contributing to the reduction of atmospheric pollution. How? Thanks to the reduction of journeys in combustion vehicles that generate greenhouse gases (GHG). These gases are what are causing climate change and harming the planet.
By opting for digital services, it is possible to carry out different tasks remotely, which in many cases reduces the need to travel. Thus, for example, in the case of digital medical services, choosing the video consultation modality when possible, and when it avoids us having to travel by car, saves the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. This also happens, for example, when a medical report is reviewed through an app or a web platform, if this action prevents physically going to pick it up at the consultation. In the latter case, in addition, paper is also reduced, since printing is not necessary since medical tests, consents and reports are available on digital platforms.
Is it possible to know the COtwo avoided when using digital medical services?
Sanitas has incorporated a new utility into the MiSanitas app and the customer portal, called “Your carbon footprint” for this purpose. Thanks to it, each client can know the specific data on CO emission savingstwo derived from their own care activity. In this way, you can find out the net emissions you have avoided by making a video consultation or by downloading a medical report in digital format instead of traveling to pick it up in consultation. In addition, you can check your CO savings historytwo accumulated throughout the year.
To establish it, we have had the support of a consultancy specialized in climate change and sustainability, The Carbon Trust, which has made the calculations for the “net” savings of the different cases. Calculate both the COtwo avoided by displacement as the increase in energy consumption generated by the digital process. Subtracting the consumption from the displacement gives us the “net” calculation of COtwo avoided. You can learn about the methodology applied by consulting this document, although the essential lies in the formula established for each use.
For example, a single video consultation avoids the net emission of 3.1 kg COtwowhile consulting a digital medical report avoids the net emission of 1.5 kg COtwo. Is that a lot or is that little? To answer this question and with the aim that the user can get a more precise idea of what his personal contribution is, a series of equivalences have been established. For example, the 3.1 kg of COtwo avoided by a video consultation correspond to the amount of COtwo that can absorb 186 trees in one day. In the case of the digital medical report, the quantity avoided corresponds to what 91 trees can absorb in one day.
This is a fairly significant contribution, especially if the volume of video consultations or medical reports that can be generated per year is taken as a reference, adding the contributions of all customers who opt for Sanitas’ digital services. Thus, for example, the digitization of services such as these at Sanitas managed to prevent the emission of 6,655 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2020
How does caring for the planet’s health impact people’s health?
The health of people is directly related to the health of the planet, as shown by various scientific studies and as defended by the One Health concept, which speaks of the relationship between the health of humans, animals and ecosystems. An example of this relationship is provided by the World Health Organization, which estimates that each year there are 4.2 million premature deaths in the world due to environmental pollution abroad.
The WHO establishes that if air pollution levels are reduced, the incidence of some diseases is also reduced, including heart attacks, lung cancer, stroke and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. And, the lower the levels of air pollution, the better the cardiovascular and respiratory health of the population.
Protecting biodiversity is also beneficial for our health. According to the UN, 75% of new infectious diseases are due to zoonoses. The zoonotic origin of these diseases refers to the transmission of viruses from animals to humans, and occurs as a result of phenomena such as deforestation and the reduction of natural habitats. This fact would be behind outbreaks such as Covid-19.
To protect people’s health, it is therefore necessary to also protect the planet’s health. For this reason, fighting against deforestation or the factors that cause climate change, such as COtwo and other greenhouse gases (GHG), is one of the great challenges of our time. It is up to us to act and thus contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Of its 17 objectives, at Sanitas we place special focus on SDG No. 3 dedicated to Health and Well-being, SDG No. 12 Responsible Production and Consumption, and SDG No. 13 Climate Action.