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Making a case for telehealth: measuring the carbon cost of health-related travel


Ellis, I and Cheek, C and Jaffray, L and Skinner, TC, Making a case for telehealth: measuring the carbon cost of health-related travel, Rural and Remote Health, 13 Article 2723. ISSN 1445-6354 (2013) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2013 I Ellis, C Cheek, L Jaffray, TC Skinner

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Background: Telehealth services are promoted to reduce the cost of travel for people living in rural areas. The previous Australian Government, through the national Digital Economy Strategy, invested heavily in telehealth service development, at the same time introducing a carbon pricing mechanism. In planning a range of new telehealth services to a rural community the authors sought to quantify the travel conducted by people from one rural area in Australia to access health care, and to calculate the associated carbon emissions. Methods: A population survey was conducted over a 1-week period of health-related travel events for the year 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012 of all households on King Island, a community situated between the Australian mainland state of Victoria and the state of Tasmania. Validated emissions calculators were sourced from the Carbon Neutral website, including the vehicle and fuel use calculator and air travel carbon calculator, to calculate the total emissions associated with the fuel burned in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). Results: Thirty nine percent of the population (625 participants) reported a total of 511 healthcare-related travel events. Participants travelled a total of 346 573 km and generated 0.22 tCO2e per capita. Participants paid the cost of their own travel more than 70% of the time. Conclusions: Dependence on fossil fuels for transport in a carbon economy has a significant impact on total healthcare carbon emissions. Alternative models of care, such as telehealth, need be developed for an environmentally sustainable healthcare system for rural and remote areas.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:carbon emissions, environment, health-related travel, population survey, telehealth
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Health and community services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Rural and remote area health
UTAS Author:Ellis, I (Professor Isabelle Skinner)
UTAS Author:Cheek, C (Dr Colleen Cheek)
UTAS Author:Jaffray, L (Mrs Linda Jaffray)
ID Code:87733
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:11
Deposited By:Rural Clinical School
Deposited On:2013-12-04
Last Modified:2017-11-06

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