AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Telemedicine in the Wake of Natural Disaster

As October 2012 came to a close, the arrival of Hurricane Sandy served as a haunting reminder that we can never underestimate the destructive and disruptive power of nature. The “superstorm” wreaked havoc on some of the most populous areas in the United States, not just causing billions in physical damage, but severely testing our infrastructure and its vital role in our society.

Considering the major implications that storms or other disaster events on this scale have for the healthcare industry, the days leading up to, during, and following Sandy were a demanding exercise in preparation, planning, and execution. The storm left countless citizens in need of medical attention, and threatened the adequate treatment of those already receiving care.

As one major resource put under the stresses of a disaster-level storm, hospitals and other healthcare facilities quickly became incapacitated by overcrowding, understaffing, a broken supply chain, and in select cases, power failures that crippled essential equipment. A small contingency of Mobile ERs were dispatched across the region, but a lack of pure manpower hindered the effectiveness of the efforts. Despite their mobility, the interrupted transportation systems within the affected communities prevented many from reaching the help they sorely needed.

Telehealth is an ideal candidate for addressing the challenges of these kinds of circumstances. The infrastructure of telemedicine is capable of delivering expert direction and attentive care to victims of natural disasters. The question of manpower becomes a negligible issue, as doctors and other respondents can call in from anywhere, and thanks to ever increasing internet access, the reach of the care administration is not limited by the victims’ location.

If emergency management agencies and telecommunications service providers are willing to work hand in hand with healthcare professionals, we now have the tools and knowledge to ensure that in future disaster scenarios, people can always have the support they need.



Building Better Policy

Over the past several years, studies such as those conducted by the CDC and the National Institute of Health have constantly shown great disparity in levels of healthcare access across America. Particularly for poorer and rural areas, a lack of proper access has historically been extremely costly both in terms of human life and a greater economic impact. Policy makers, government officials, and leaders of health care organizations have recognized this divide, and are focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to patient access to provide a better, more uniform standard of effective healthcare across the country.

Thanks largely to leaps in technology and growing infrastructure, telemedicine is emerging as a highly effective solution with the potential to shape the future landscape of healthcare in America. The innovative, modern solutions offered by the growing telemedicine field combat the logistical challenges of the current state of healthcare, while having been proven to be more cost effective. Now, legislators are finally beginning to see the light.

On a state level, governments that have passed new telehealth legislation have seen positive results across the board. Powerful new applications and techniques have helped simplify and streamline remote patient consultation and monitoring, delivering better care with less economic impact with patient satisfaction rates nearing 100%. A dozen states, including Georgia, are leading the way on acknowledging telemedicine as an effective and efficient solution. So far in 2012, Maryland and Vermont have become the latest states to require private insurance companies to pay for telemedicine services.

The adoption of telemedicine marks a revolution in healthcare that carries great possibility for lasting impact. Creating a legislative environment in which telemedicine can flourish must continue to become a priority in a nation interested in reducing costs and saving lives.