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Indian healthcare industry working to go paperless to stall environmental implications of deforestation

Nandita Vijayasimha, Bengaluru
Tuesday, June 11, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Indian healthcare industry is now working to go paperless to stall environmental implications of deforestation, GHG emissions and waste generation. Initiatives like electronic health record (EHR), e-prescriptions, digital billing systems, tele-health, and mobile health applications have placed the sector to move towards sustainable practices.
Series of climatic changes, global warming and CO2 emissions have been an eye-opener for the healthcare industry, especially when it comes to using paper-based systems which aggravates the environmental implications of deforestation, noted Vishal Lathwal, CEO, Apollo Home Healthcare.
As climate change deepens the healthcare industry as one of the largest paper consumers globally is demonstrating the need to address the staggering ecological consequences. On the occasion of the World Environment Day observed on June 5, the healthcare industry sees that it has an opportunity to move towards sustainable healthcare.
Lathwal noted that here implementing EHR is the first and most impactful step to going paperless, as it ensures secure, efficient, and easily accessible patient information management which significantly eliminates paper usage. Storing documents in the Cloud ensures accessibility and security, and eliminates the need for physical file storage saving excessive paper consumption.
Paperless home healthcare also encompasses leveraging e-prescriptions and digital billing systems, designed to streamline the medication management process and lower the use of paper prescriptions and invoices. The adoption of tele-health enables seamless sharing of digital health records, lowering the need for paper-backed physical documentation. Harnessing the potential of mobile health applications for appointment scheduling, patient monitoring, and communication also results in significant paper reduction, he added.
To this end, home healthcare providers are proactively shifting to paperless systems. As recent stats highlight, on average 100 to over 500 papers are consumed during the course of homecare service delivery. Thus, going paperless drastically reduces the amount of paper waste and in turn supports the conservation of trees, reduces landfill use, reduces energy and water required for paper production which is a unique opportunity to protect the ecosystem while providing healthcare services at the doorstep, Lathwal told Pharmabiz.
The global movement towards zero emissions is further accelerated with the adoption of digital records, designed specifically to lower the need for physical storage and transportation, and enabling the healthcare sector to lead the baton on reduced GHG emissions. It also accelerates energy savings by mitigating energy consumption associated with extensive physical storage infrastructures, Lathwal noted.     
To ensure a smooth transition, healthcare providers need to provide hands-on training, implement robust data security protocols, and ensure all digital practices comply with healthcare regulation standards. In tandem, Apollo Homecare has pledged to transition to paperless operations as part of their ‘Go-Green’ initiative, designed to not only streamline operations but also bring forth green benefits, said Lathwal.
According to Shreevalli V, COO, Kinder Women's Hospital & Fertility Centre, "A paperless world is becoming a big reality in healthcare. By rapidly digitizing operations and daily processes, hospitals are now able to complete multiple routine tasks in a much more efficient way. This way they are able to find more time for patient care. Patients are offered electronic access to their personal records and they can carry out appointment scheduling and renew prescriptions digitally".


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