Between iPhones, iPods, Blackberries, et al, it may seem America is growing more “wireless” everyday, and yet we are far from a “paperless” society. Even with all of the advances in digital technology, the average office worker in a typical business, still consumes nearly 50 sheets of paper everyday.

Regardless of the increased use of wireless devices, the internet, and other digital technology, paper consumption by most businesses is in fact increasing by 20% every year; a voracious appetite that really shows very little sign of lessening. And who is one of the most ravenous consumers? The healthcare industry, of course.  

In the many discussions I have read about EHR, PHR, and EMR implementation, I rarely see the environmental aspects discussed. Yet, I think it is imperative that the healthcare industry takes a serious look at the amount of waste it generates. It has been cited that hospitals in the U.S. alone generate some 6,600 tons of waste paper everyday, some 80-95% of that ending up in landfills.  

Healthcare IT affords a great opportunity to significantly minimize paper consumption across the healthcare industry. 

Take for example the experience of Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Last spring SMC, which includes three hospital campuses, a freestanding emergency department, and approximately 70 clinics in the greater Seattle area, began a green initiative, which included implementation of EHR. According to Nancy Richards, ECM Systems Architect for the hospital,We’ve digitized nearly three million pages of documentation since going live that formerly would have gone on paper, and that’s pretty green, and we we’re very proud of that.”               

EHRs may not lead to an entirely paperless healthcare system, but certainly they may make medicine paper “less” and theoretically:

·        Reduce the carbon footprint of hospitals and healthcare facilities

·        Reduce consumption of trees substantially

·        Decrease landfill usage

 Other Ways to Reduce

There are many other ways that any medical practice can reduce paper consumption in addition to adopting an EHR or EMR solution. Such as:

·        Printing on both sides of paper sheets, most modern office copiers have this feature

·        Using recycled paper whenever possible, and recycling whatever paper is used

·        Use paper properly, improper storage of paper attracts dirt that results in increased paper jams and more waste.