ICYMI: New UC Davis Health Study: “Telehealth Cuts Health Care’s Carbon Footprint And Patient’s Costs During Pandemic”

Jan 13, 2023

Research Finds Telehealth Reduced CO2 Emissions by nearly 21,500 Tons While Saving More Than $33 million in Travel-Related Costs Over Two-Years 

In case you missed it, a new study conducted by researchers at UC Davis Health underscores how telehealth helps reduce carbon emissions, significantly lowers costs, and improves convenience for patients.

The study, which analyzed data across five University of California health care systems from the first two years of the pandemic, found that among these systems, the average telehealth patient was able to avoid 17.6 miles in travel distance and 35 minutes in travel time, and saved $11 per appointment based solely on travel costs. Reduced travel connected to just these five institutions due to pandemic telehealth utilization reduced carbon emissions by 21,466 metric tons over these two years – equal to an entire year’s worth of carbon emissions from nearly 4,200 homes. 

The study found that virtual care visits among the UC health care system saved:

  • Nearly 53.7 million travel miles (equal to 113 trips to the moon and back)
  • 204 years in travel time
  • More than $33.5 million in costs related to travel
  • 42.4 injuries
  • 0.7 fatalities

In the study, James Marcin, director of the UC Davis Center for Health and Technology, professor of pediatrics, and senior author of the study, said, “Even if only 25 percent of ambulatory visits were conducted via telehealth, there would still be substantial cost savings and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

This study further underscores how telehealth reduces costs and saves time for patients — and can play a critical role in reducing carbon emissions. While Congress took a major step forward toward protecting virtual care by extending telehealth protections until the end of 2024 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, permanent solutions will be needed to safeguard access to telehealth for patients.

Read the full study on the JAMA Network HERE and UC Davis Health’s press release on the study HERE

Learn more about how Congress can act to permanently protect telehealth access HERE.


Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more and take action today at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.