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Assessing the carbon footprint of digital health interventions: a scoping review

HumanInsight Assessing the carbon footprint of digital health interventions: a scoping review

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2022 Oct 31:ocac196. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocac196. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Integration of environmentally sustainable digital health interventions requires robust evaluation of their carbon emission life-cycle before implementation in healthcare. This scoping review surveys the evidence on available environmental assessment frameworks, methods, and tools to evaluate the carbon footprint of digital health interventions for environmentally sustainable healthcare.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Medline (Ovid), Embase (Ovid). PsycINFO (Ovid), CINAHL, Web of Science, Scopus (which indexes IEEE Xplore, Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science and ACM databases), Compendex, and Inspec databases were searched with no time or language constraints. The Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA_SCR), Joanna Briggs Scoping Review Framework, and template for intervention description and replication (TiDiER) checklist were used to structure and report the findings.

RESULTS: From 3299 studies screened, data was extracted from 13 full-text studies. No standardised methods or validated tools were identified to systematically determine the environmental sustainability of a digital health intervention over its full life-cycle from conception to realisation. Most studies (n = 8) adapted publicly available carbon calculators to estimate telehealth travel-related emissions. Others adapted these tools to examine the environmental impact of electronic health records (n = 2), e-prescriptions and e-referrals (n = 1), and robotic surgery (n = 1). One study explored optimising the information system electricity consumption of telemedicine. No validated systems-based approach to evaluation and validation of digital health interventions could be identified.

CONCLUSION: There is a need to develop standardised, validated methods and tools for healthcare environments to assist stakeholders to make informed decisions about reduction of carbon emissions from digital health interventions.

PMID:36314391 | DOI:10.1093/jamia/ocac196

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