Riddle me this…what’s better than going to the doctor when there’s something that ails you?  How about not going to the doctor…if your doctor happens to be several hours drive away…and you can benefit from the wonders of telemedicine.

Though originally developed to help bring medical expertise from hospital rich urban areas to far-flung corners of civilization, telemedicine is also proving to be beneficial to the health of the environment.  Think about it…instead of hopping in your car in, oh let’s say, Sudbury, driving for several hours, getting stuck on the Don Valley Parkway, circling the block a few times when you get to UHN looking for parking and then waiting an hour for your appointment because you knew all of the above was going to happen and you left extra early…well instead of that, how great would it be to be able to drive to the nearest, much closer, telemedicine conference site for your check-up.  Sounds pretty great to me.

How great you ask?  Well, a recent study by UHN’s Telehealth program found that over a six month period, 840 telemedicine consultations, where people didn’t have to drive to UHN, helped avoid over 185 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents and prevented 360 kilograms of other air pollutants…at the same time as allowing our patients to not drive over 750,000 kilometres and keep tens-of-thousands of hard earned dollars in their pockets instead of being spent at gas stations (nothing against gas stations…but you know where I’m going with this).

The entire story, with all the glorious details, can be found in the November 2010 Edition of Telemedicine and e-Health (The Impact of Telemedicine on Greenhouse Gas Emissions at an Academic Health Science Center in Canada, Telemedicine and e-Health Vol. 16 No. 9, for those who are keeping score).  A big shout-out to the study’s authors, Leon Lem, Brendan Purdy, Dr. Peter Rossos, and especially Caterina Masino who pulled the whole thing together and was kind enough to include yours truly as an author.

Just another example of how sustainability and health care work hand-in-hand…