Researchers have found that electronic medical records systems (EMR) in hospitals produce more greenhouse gases than paper-based systems. However, they suggest that if renewable energy sources were used instead of conventional energy, the emissions would be similar to those of paper-based systems.
A recent study was conducted at Aravind Eye Hospital in Puducherry to investigate the advantages of electronic medical records. R. Venkatesh, the Chief Medical Officer of the hospital and one of the researchers said, decarbonising electricity sources in healthcare facilities could mitigate environmental impact.
The research took place at Pondicherry hospital, part of Aravind Eye Care System, where they started using EMR in 2018. The hospital has 650 beds and serves a population of over 21.2 million people from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
The hospital had 568,982 patients in 2016 when it used a paper medical records system, but in 2019, with the same system, it served 538,325 patients.
The authors of the study concluded that while the EMR system produces more emissions than a paper record-keeping system, it does not take into account the potential benefits of EMRs such as increasing access to care, reducing patient travel, and improving operational efficiencies.
The study discovered that if the hospital obtained all of its electricity from renewable sources like solar or wind instead of the Indian electric grid, its EMR emissions would decrease to a level similar to using paper records. This would result in 24,900 kg CO2 e emissions (0.046 kg CO2 e per patient). The authors mentioned that the study did not take into account the positive environmental impacts of EMRs, such as improving healthcare access and reducing the need for unnecessary medical care.
Dr. Venkatesh stated that the results indicate that EMR systems could become more eco-friendly by using renewable energy sources.
Reference- Journal of Medical Internal Research, The Hindu, Aravind Eye Hospital (Puducherry)