The health sector can’t ignore telemedicine’s green gains

News Excerpt:

A study by researchers at an eye institute, has found another advantage of telemedicine i.e. lower emissions.

About Telemedicine: 

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Telemedicine as, “The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis and treatment, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
  • Telemedicine has emerged as a viable alternative to in-person consultations with doctors in many contexts because it saves patients time and expenses, which can be considerable if they are located in remote areas and/or are not well-to-do. 
    • But as more people pick this option, another advantage is coming to the fore: lower emissions.

Here are the key points about the carbon footprint of the healthcare sector:

  • In India, where 70% of the population lives in villages, hospital visits often require long-distance travel to urban centers, contributing to a significant carbon footprint.
    • Vehicular emissions are a major contributor to local pollution and global warming, with about 88% of carbon dioxide emissions in India coming from road traffic.
  • Studies in high-income countries show that telemedicine is patient- and environment-friendly for healthcare service delivery.
  • The study also found that over a three-month period, 
    • Teleconsultation led to 1,666 fewer kilometers of travel for patients and an average reduction of 176.6 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.
    • India's healthcare sector emitted 74 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2014, around 3% of the country's total emissions that year.
  • As the demand for health services increases, the paradoxical harm to health due to emissions from the healthcare sector is likely to increase as well. Thus, healthcare systems should work towards carbon neutrality.



  • The National Telemedicine Service of India is a step towards digital health equity to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
  • It facilitates quick and easy access to doctors and medical specialists from a smartphone. 
  • eSanjeevani has been conceptualized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India
  • Since 2020, it has been acting as a parallel stream of the Indian healthcare delivery system for citizens across the country. 
    • It is facilitating several prestigious national initiatives like the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, Digital India, and Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission.
  • It is nationally operational in two modes:

e-Sanjeevani AB-HWC: 

  • A provider-to-provider telemedicine system (for assisted teleconsultations) under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme of Govt. of India, operating in a hub and spoke model.
    • Health & Wellness Centres act as the spokes, and these spokes are linked with hubs set up in Medical Colleges/District-Level Hospitals, etc. 
    • These hubs are populated with doctors and specialists.

e-Sanjeevani OPD:

  • A Patient-to-Doctor, telemedicine system to enable people to get outpatient services in the confines of their homes
  • The key aim of eSanjeevani OPD was to provide safe health services to the populace. Since then, it has continued to grow even in the post-lockdown scenario. People have taken well to this service as it allows them to consult doctors, bypassing avoidable elements such as travel, waiting time, risk of infection, etc. 
  • eSanjeevaniOPD has actively eased off the burden on the hospitals, which can thereby cater to more serious patients. In many states, eSanjeevaniOPD has enabled health services round-the-clock 365 days a year.

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