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Environmental Impacts of Digital Services for Health and Wellbeing in the Home (EIDS)

England’s National Health Service (NHS) aims to be the world’s first net-zero health service. Meanwhile, digitalisation is transforming healthcare provision. EIDS investigates environmental outcomes of the shift towards phone and video appointments. It aims to support the NHS in meeting its sustainability targets, and share best practice in eHealth innovation.

Illustration by Tess Duffin representing a patient speaking to a doctor remotely. The patient has a black cat under her desk, and the doctor has box files under hers.

Digitalisation in health services (also known as eHealth) has potential to offer benefits in terms of sustainability, especially by reducing the need for patients and staff to travel to appointments.

However, there are also negative impacts associated with increased production, use and disposal of electronic devices, and there are energy impacts of storing and transmitting large amounts of data.

At present, there is little evidence on any of these impacts. This makes it hard for healthcare providers to build sustainability into the design of their digital services.

Our research involves working closely with NHS partners to understand how virtual appointments are changing their working practices, and how this might have knock-on effects on environmental outcomes.

The research explores changes to travel by patients and staff, use of NHS estates and facilities, and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Specialists in Life Cycle Analysis are evaluating the impacts of these changes on a range of environmental outcomes, including carbon emissions.

This work forms part of a wider project that aims to understand environmental impacts of a range of digital services in people’s homes. Other work within the project is focusing on technologies to help older people with independent living.

We are committed to doing our research in a sustainable way – view our Sustainable Research Plan (PDF).

This project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and started in September 2021. It is led by the University of Sussex, and also involves the University of Manchester, Imperial College London, University College London, and our partner organisations Orbit, Apello and Greener NHS.

If you have any questions about this research, please contact Sarah Royston: [email protected]

News

31 December 2023

EIDS team completes eHealth research

In December 2023, the EIDS team completed our research on environmental impacts of eHealth, having interviewed 23 health sector professionals, and worked with an NHS Trust to conduct quantitative analysis on travel impacts of a virtual health app. You can read a briefing on our findings (PDF) and a briefing about doing research in a sustainable way (PDF), which we also produced. We are very grateful to all participants who gave their time to support this research.

3 April 2023

EIDS team completes case studies

During winter 2022 and spring 2023, we worked with several NHS Trusts and organisations to develop detailed case studies on innovation and best practice in delivering digital health services.

1 March 2022

EIDS team holds scoping workshop

We held a virtual workshop in February 2022 with 15 experts from across the health sector, to scope out opportunities and challenges for our research. Thanks to all participants for a hugely useful session!

6 September 2021

EIDS project launches

The EIDS project officially launched on 1 March 2021, and was announced at the Digital Economy Sustainable Digital Society 2021 Proposal Processing Panel on 3 March.

View the EIDS record on EPSRC Grants on the Web