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Electronic health records have considerable climate benefits

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Each year, a stream of hundreds of thousands of health records crisscrosses between health care units, the Social Insurance Institution Kela, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi, and pension and non-life insurance companies ‒ most of it on paper. Finance Finland, Kela, Trafi and the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have made a sustainable development commitment for the digitalisation of health records.

The commitment aims at reducing carbon footprints, improving customer equality, and increasing resource efficiency. Process descriptions for the commitment were made in cooperation with FFI members Elo, Ilmarinen, Varma, If and LocalTapiola. Their overall objective is to digitalise the exchange of all health information as comprehensively as possible. Such information includes, for example, medical certificates which are needed in decisions made on benefits, pensions and insurance claims as well as for driver's licences.

"Process integration and the development of IT systems require cooperation. We must collaborate extensively with each other to reach the aims of our shared commitment to sustainable development. The commitment highlights climate issues, wellbeing and customer satisfaction in the implementation of digitalisation", the parties to the commitment state in their press release.

Automation speeds up the processing of documents

Preliminary calculations indicate that the digitalisation of health records will be beneficial in several different ways. Automation speeds up the handling of health records and also shortens their turnaround time in different processing stages. It decreases overall duration, eliminates overlaps, reduces manual work required in the handling of paper forms and documents, and cuts down mail volumes. Better efficiency means smaller carbon footprint and reduced climate impact.

The costs of health information exchange get smaller with improved efficiency and time use as well as reduced material and logistics costs. When the handling of documents requires less time during appointments, it also saves the customer's own time and effort. An electronic service reduces errors and thus improves reliability. It makes access to the service independent of time and place as well.

The commitment assesses the climate impact of the reform by calculating the carbon footprint of health information exchange and then monitoring its development annually based on the degree of digitalisation. The assessment takes into account the emissions from document traffic (archiving, mailing, paper) from all the process participants. In addition, factors such as working time and personal transport are included separately from each participant where relevant. Part of this preliminary stage of the assessment is to consider the inclusion of other potential factors as well. The assessment on the benefits and impact of digitalisation will be complete in late 2017, after which the results will be reported annually.

The objective of the commitment to sustainable development is to promote wise and efficient service development that takes into account environmental, societal and economic issues: with focus on reducing carbon footprints, the commitment contributes to the joint efforts to battle climate change, and in terms of wellbeing, digitalisation improves the accessibility and equality of services and raises customer satisfaction.

Additional information

Social Insurance Institution Kela
Heli Korhola, Strategy Manager, tel. +35840 0963 819

Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi
Johanna Simkin, Development Manager, tel. +358 29 5345 265

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Jari Porrasmaa, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 29 5163 381