The impact of telemedicine on greenhouse gas emissions at an academic health science center in Canada

Telemed J E Health. 2010 Nov;16(9):973-6. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2010.0057. Epub 2010 Oct 19.


Objective: This study estimates the reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from 840 telemedicine consultations completed in a 6-month time period. Our model considers GHG emissions for both vehicle and videoconferencing unit energy use. Cost avoidance factors are also discussed.

Materials and methods: Travel distances in kilometers were calculated for each appointment using postal code data and Google Maps™ Web-based map calculator tools.

Results: Including return travel, an estimated 757,234 km were avoided, resulting in a GHG emissions savings of 185,159 kg (185 metric tons) of carbon dioxide equivalents in vehicle emissions. Approximately 360,444 g of other air pollutant emissions was also avoided. The GHG emissions produced by energy consumption for videoconference units were estimated to be 42 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted for this sample.

Conclusions: The overall GHG emissions associated with videoconferencing unit energy is minor when compared with those avoided from vehicle use. In addition to improved patient-centered care and cost savings, environmental benefits provide additional incentives for the adoption of telemedicine services.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / economics
  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbon Footprint / statistics & numerical data*
  • Climate Change / statistics & numerical data*
  • Greenhouse Effect / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Ontario
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telemedicine / economics
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Time Factors
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Videoconferencing


  • Carbon Dioxide