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Medicine Starts Thinking Green

By Sarah Rubenstein
The Wall Street Journal Health Blog

Here’s a reason we hadn’t heard before to support a move to electronic medical records: It’s environmentally friendly.

The tree-sparing virtue of electronic records was a plus for a Washington medical practice that’s switching to a high-tech system. The practice, the Washington Wellness Institute, also boasts that its physical plant is entirely free of toxins and that everything including the carpet and wall panels is made of natural and recycled materials. And among other things, the doctors use washable hemp gowns instead of disposable paper ones.

The environmentally friendly options are described in this morning’s Washington Post, which highlights an unfortunate paradox: Medical practices and hospitals save lives, but in the process, they throw out everything from plastic bandages, cotton swabs and medical waste that makes its way to incinerators and, when burned, releases dioxin, mercury and other toxins.

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