Electronic medical record system that uses renewable energy reduces carbon footprint: Study

Study at Aravind Eye Hospital shows gains are same as paper-based systems

February 12, 2024 07:59 am | Updated 07:59 am IST - CHENNAI

Image for representational purposes only.

Image for representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: Getty Images


Electronic medical records (EMR) systems in hospital settings emit significantly more greenhouse gases than the traditional paper-based system. But, if conventional energy systems were replaced by renewable energy then the GHG emissions would be comparable to paper-based systems, say researchers. 

A study to understand the benefits of EMR was done recently. Aravind Eye Hospital in Puducherry was taken for the study and one of the researchers and the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer R. Venkatesh said decarbonising electricity sources in healthcare facilities could mitigate environmental impact.   

The article The Environmental Impacts of Electronic Medical Records Versus Paper Records at a Large Eye Hospital in India: Life Cycle Assessment Study, published in the recent edition of the Journal of Medical Internal Research tried to understand the environmental emissions associated with medical record-keeping in the context of climate action and carbon footprint. 

The study was done at Aravind Eye Care System’s Pondicherry hospital, which adopted EMR in 2018. The 650-bed tertiary care centre caters to over 21.2 million people in the neighbouring districts of Tamil Nadu besides Puducherry. 

In 2016, the hospital used a paper medical records system it served 568,982 patients and in 2019, it served 538,325 patients.  

“Though we found that the EMR system produced more emissions than a paper record-keeping system, this study does not account for potential expanded environmental gains from EMRs, including expanding access to care while reducing patient travel and operational efficiencies that can reduce unnecessary or redundant care,” the authors Cassandra L. Thiel et al concluded.  

They found that if the hospital sourced all electricity from renewable sources such as solar or wind rather than the Indian electric grid, its EMR emissions would drop to 24,900 kg CO2 e (0.046 kg CO2 e per patient), a level comparable to the paper record-keeping system.  

The authors pointed out that the study had excluded the environmental gains from EMRs such as expanding access to care while reducing patient travel and operational efficiencies that can reduce unnecessary or redundant care. 

Dr. Venkatesh said the findings highlighted the potential for EMR systems to become more environmentally sustainable with the adoption of renewable energy sources.  

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