Wexner Medical Center: Telehealth Utilization Results in Significant Emission Reductions

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February 24, 2021

Telehealth and Avoided Emissions

Because of its national reputation as a leading academic medical center that drives breakthrough healthcare solutions to improve people’s lives, patients travel an average of 42.4 miles roundtrip to receive care from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Prior to the pandemic, the medical center conducted approximately 800 telehealth visits for fiscal year 2020, less than 1% of all patient visits. But beginning in March, that number skyrocketed and with many positive, unintended consequences as a result — for patients and the environment.  

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, in conjunction with Ohio’s stay-at-home orders, the medical center encouraged patients to utilize telehealth services for continuity of care and support. Since March 2020, telehealth accounted for over 340,000 visits, eliminating 14 million miles in travel for patients, and helping them save over 650,000 gallons in gasoline (using the average 2020 price of gas in Ohio, $1.3 million in savings!), plus any parking fees and travel time they might have otherwise incurred. Patients also realized significant time savings. By reducing the time and expense for visits, and reducing potential exposure to coronavirus, the medical center’s telehealth options offer a conduit for continued health and well-being on behalf of its patients.

The environmental impact during this same timeframe is equally astonishing, with an estimated 5,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided as a result of eliminating patients’ travel for telehealth visits. That is the equivalent of the energy required to power 668 homes for an entire year, or charging your smart phone an astonishing 738 million times! Telehealth care was applied for a wide range of primary care needs, such as chronic disease management, physical exams, well-child visits, wellness checks, mental health follow-up, medication management, new patient encounters, acute non-emergent complaints such as back pain, headache, and rash, and lifestyle counseling.

The medical center offers video visits and e-visits for patients, in addition to teleconsults for clinician-to-clinician collaboration. National trends strongly suggest that telehealth is here to stay — well beyond COVID-19. In fact, experts anticipate the market to reach $185.6 billion over the next six years. This will result in significantly reducing the environmental impact of the entire industry, without sacrificing quality and actually expanding access to care.

Story from Wexner Medical Center Marketing & Strategic Communications