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Health Services During Natural Disasters.



Telemedicine also has a significant impact in reducing health care cost most notably through decreased travel time and expenses for physicians and healthcare providers. Under the current system, health information is shared electronically. A specialist from an urban center can consult with a patient through video conferencing to potentially remote areas. As a result, there is increased patient compliance in part due to geographical convenience to access care and a reduction in time off work to attend medical appointments. In my view, telemedicine has an overall positive impact on community health. And I am not alone in these views, in fact, there are some insurance companies in the USA that promote Tele-Doc (American equivalent to Telemedicine) consultation over an in-person visit to a physician.

Technology and communication accessed distance medicine in modern world is the real blessing in natural disaster. Often times, most populated and serviced cities cut off from the rest of the world. Recently, Houston, a city with 2.3 million population partially sunk under water and disconnected from all services and access. Many cities around the world are targeted by natural and man-made disasters. In ability to provide instantaneous health services, immediately post disaster may lead to spread of communicable diseases, worsening of preexisting health care conditions, accentuation of morbidity and delayed recovery of overall community health.

Sense of helplessness sets in as earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes and the like often invoke a sense of empathy or a desire to do something. The telemedicine setup can play an important role in the response to natural disasters, even in the case of the collapse of health infrastructure in areas that were never designed to deal with the large influx in demand for care. In 2013, a nightclub fire in Brazil took the lives of 242 people. Hundreds of people were left in need of immediate care, and the closest Level-1 trauma center hospital was located over 700 miles away. A telemedicine popup hub was set up to triage patients and to consult with local providers as nearly 100 patients were treated for respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.

The health care technology landscape has changed drastically. The platforms for telemedicine are already in the mainstream market in a way to see patients. In the arena of emergency relief, the urgent care applications have the potential to change the way we approach natural disaster response. The local healthcare workers and staff within the hospital are paramount, but there are huge untapped resources outside the immediate area.

The community health outcome improves drastically when victims are provided primary care under the guidance of specialists located miles away. The morbidity and mortality reduce in the community. Easy and local access to healthcare increases patient compliance to treatment and follow ups. At the same time, health care providers and physicians do not need to travel across long distances can increase availability of service and wide medicinal specialities. Many studies found that a telemedicine hub set up at a central command center following a natural disaster that connects to a network of specialists can improve survival rates and help decrease mortality rates associated with natural disasters. While we cannot control natural disasters or prevent them, we can control how we can be ready to respond immediately after. Telemedicine system can play a role in responding to disasters through triaging and consultations with multiple specialists.

We have the technology and need in some cases a dire requirement. We have many more physicians around the world would volunteer their time and expertise.

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