A Systematic Review of The Impact of Telehealth Utilization in the United States of America’s Healthcare System on the Environment

Timothy Oyebola Ige


This study is designed to investigate the impact of telehealth utilization in the United States of America’s healthcare system on the environment to inform both healthcare and environmental policies. This study followed the PRISMA guidelines for systematic review analysis. As part of the literature search, and the selection of  the articles, publications, and papers for the study’s analysis; the data collection procedure considered the first and second authors of the completed simultaneous electronic and ancestral searches for peer-reviewed articles by using these online databases, which includes: Medline, EMBASE, Web of Science, Greenfile, and Google scholar as well as advanced Google scholar for all articles in the English language that evaluated the impact of telemedicine on the environment. With the help of Boolean search technique and experts’ reviews, 20 articles were included in this study. This study finds that some of the types of telecommunication methods use in healthcare system include the following services: Body Area Networks (BANs), video-conferencing, website, telephone consultations, and other mobile application technology. In the literature, it was observed that telehealth utilization rapidly expanded during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and further continues to provide critical access to health care services to patients within and outside United States of America. Again, it was underscored in this study that some of the positive effects of telehealth use include but not limited to the following: (1) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from both patients and staff reduced travels, (2) reduction in waste production associated with each consultation through reduced patient and staff travel, (3) reduction in greenhouse gas and waste product associated with reduced equipment use, particularly through the reduction in raw materials needed, (4) air pollutant emission savings, and (5) reduction in sanitation required per consultation. Above all, some of the negative effects of telehealth use include but not limited to the following: (1) increased energy use associated with greater digitization, (2) The expansion of digital health increase demand for devices contributing to the environmental burden of electronics, (3) Inadequate resources to effectively handle e-waste leads to pollution of local environments, creating significant health risks, (4)  the production and disposal of wearable technologies, robotics and devices used to facilitate telehealth (i.e. smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) cause environmental degradation, and (5) Raw materials (such as—iron, aluminum, gold, mercury, cyanide, etc.) required to produce telehealth technologies or devices  require large mining operations leading to land and environmental degradation.

Keywords: Telehealth, Environment, Digital Health, Video-Conferencing, Telemedicine, Healthcare System, Utilization, Technologies, Greenhouse-Gas, Pollution, and Emissions

DOI: 10.7176/JBAH/14-1-06

Publication date: February 28th 2024

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3208 ISSN (Online)2225-093X

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