Washington: Virtual consultation, according to recent research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is a novel and emerging addition to ecologically sustainable health care. The COVID-19 epidemic has hastened the change to virtual consultation, resulting in its increased utilisation. As health systems throughout the world aspire for net-zero carbon emissions, a fundamental issue arises: what effect does virtual consultation have on environmental sustainability in health care?
This topic will be addressed in a new research project led by Sara Shaw and her team. The research, titled “The Role of Virtual Consulting in Developing Environmentally Sustainable Health Care: A Systematic Literature Review,” appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. This study investigates the environmental effect of virtual consultation in health care and how it may contribute to the net-zero goal.
The researchers analysed 1672 published papers and selected 23 that focused on a variety of virtual consultation equipment and platforms used in a variety of clinical problems and services. Patient travel time for face-to-face meetings has been substantially decreased as a result of telemedicine appointments, including video and telephone-based visits; hence, virtual consulting can be an efficient strategy to achieve environmental sustainability goals.
These studies employed various methodologies and approaches to assess carbon savings, but despite methodological differences, all agreed that virtual consultation greatly decreased carbon emissions.
However, most previous research has not evaluated wider factors such as patient suitability; clinical indication; and organizational infrastructure affecting the acceptance, use, and growth of virtual consultations. Professor Shaw, from the University of Oxford, said,
Health systems urgently need to become more environmentally sustainable. Our review clearly shows that virtual consultations offer one means to help with that. While the adoption and spread of virtual consulting need to be considered alongside a range of system, organisational, clinical and patient-related factors, when done well and at scale, they offer significant potential for carbon savings, primarily (though not only) through reductions in travel. The pandemic brought a big shift to virtual care–this is set to continue, and our findings suggest it will help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Further work is now urgently needed to fully appreciate the extent of carbon emissions and potential for reductions, as well as other environmental impacts (eg, electronic waste) across the entire clinical pathway, rather than on virtual consultations alone.
Stakeholders associated with virtual consulting services need to better appreciate the potential for reductions in emissions and weigh this up in relation to the benefits and potential risks (eg, adverse events, missed diagnoses) related to providing or scaling up such services.
To see a rapid and pronounced change, both funders and evaluators need to routinely include carbon footprint modelling into their design and methods, as well as fully engage with the transdisciplinary endeavor of reviewing, monitoring, and addressing issues of environmental sustainability.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.