A recent study by Kaiser Permanente shows that health informatics, specifically the use of electronic health records (EHRs), can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have other positive effects on the environment.
The study reveals that switching to EHRs, as opposed to traditional tangible records, can lower carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.7 million tons. This is largely due to the reduction in travel, as patients who use EHRs can visit a healthcare facility virtually, rather than face-to-face, and can fill their prescriptions online.
Similarly, the study shows that by using EHRs instead of tangible medical charts, healthcare facilities would save about 1,044 tons of paper every year. The use of toxic chemicals like hydroquinone and silver nitrate would also be decreased as X-ray images and other scans are digitized.
Due to the many benefits of using EHRs, many healthcare facilities have eliminated the use of paper records. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 27 percent of physicians said they use either a basic or a fully-functioning EHR system in 2009. This percentage has been increasing since 2007.