Outpatient Telemedicine Program in Vascular Surgery Reduces Patient Travel Time, Cost, and Environmental Pollutant Emissions

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Annals of vascular surgery


BACKGROUND: We analyze the impact of outpatient telemedicine services on the travel burden of vascular surgery patients with regard to distance, time, and cost, as well as the emission of environmental pollutants.

METHODS: Retrospective analysis was used to compare the patient travel expenditure and environmental impact associated with telemedicine encounters versus hypothetical in-person traditional consultations for all outpatient virtual care encounters with vascular surgery patients from October 2015 to October 2017. The primary outcomes measured were travel distance saved, travel time saved, travel costs saved, reduction in fuel consumption, and reduction in environmental pollutant emission.

RESULTS: Over a two-year period, 146 outpatient telemedicine encounters were conducted among 87 unique patients (61 females, 26 males; mean age, 60 ± 13 years). The average one-way distance saved by the utilization of telemedicine services was 15.6 ± 6.3 miles, with an average roundtrip savings of 31.2 miles. The average one-way travel time saved was 19.5 ± 9.2 minutes, with an average roundtrip savings of 39 minutes. By using telemedicine services, these vascular surgery patients saved an average of $4.26 in gas and parking costs at each telemedicine encounter. The total reduction in passenger vehicle emission of environmental pollutants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxides, and volatile organic compounds was 1632 kg, 42,867 g, 3160 g, and 4715 g, respectively, with a total of 194 gallons of gas saved from driving.

CONCLUSIONS: Utilization of telemedicine services reduces the travel distance, time, and costs for vascular surgery patients. Outpatient telemedicine programs may also provide environmental benefit through the reduction of greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions.

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