Telehealth, the practice of providing medical services via electronic technology, has shown itself to be a powerful development in healthcare. Particularly, it has increased access to medical care for masses of patients, helped treat key public health issues, and even made receiving care more affordable.
However, while many focus solely on the aforementioned benefits associated with telehealth, it can also be an incredibly effective means of providing emergency medical services and medical care in the wake of a disaster. Understanding how telehealth is proving itself to be a viable practice in these events is essential to comprehend the amazing ways healthcare is evolving.
Here is how advanced telehealth can improve emergency medical services and disaster relief efforts.
Providing Immediate Emergency Medical Attention to Rural Residents
One of the largest issues currently facing American healthcare is rural residents’ lack of access to health care. Oftentimes, rural residents must drive hours to reach the nearest medical office — which may not even be prepared to provide emergency medical attention.
Fortunately, in addition to offering rural residents a more convenient means of engaging in routine appointments with medical providers, telehealth is making immediate medical attention possible in the case of emergencies and disasters. Though it’s not ideal to be receiving medical attention remotely in the case of an emergency, this form of care can be incredibly impactful and even save lives.
For example, if a rural resident is injured by a power tool, through telehealth, the victim can be instructed on how to disinfect the wound and stop the bleeding. As one can imagine, telehealth has the power to make rural residents far safer by providing them with an immediate means of receiving medical instruction during an emergency.
Engaging with Specialists During an Emergency
While emergency room doctors, general physicians and DNP nurses are equipped with the skills and knowledge to treat a multitude of ailments, some specific ailments require the attention of a specialist. Unfortunately, in emergency situations when a specialist is needed, there is typically a slim chance of them being nearby and available.
Today, however, telehealth is helping solve the problem by connecting patients in emergency situations with specialists. In this way, telehealth has the potential to vastly improve the way many people experience and receive emergency medical services.
Aiding Medical First Responders After a Disaster
When it comes to disasters both big and small, the chaotic aftermath can make it difficult for medical first responders to treat and assess every victim. In addition, many victims of disasters may require advanced medical care that first responders aren’t necessarily equipped to respond to. In cases like these, telehealth can aid first responders in a number of important ways.
One incredibly important way in which telehealth can aid first responders in disaster relief efforts is by assessing which patients are the most in need of medical attention. To do this, first responders can communicate with remote physicians and be advised on which victims to treat first.
Another critical way in which telehealth can aid first responders during these incidents is by helping first responders make quicker, more accurate decisions. In these scenarios, this can result in more people’s lives being saved and a greater number of disaster victims experiencing optimal health outcomes.
Mitigating Disaster Relief Costs
Disaster relief is a necessary form of care that all citizens in the country should be entitled to. However, it can be an expensive undertaking and often involve a vast number of employees. Thankfully, telehealth is emerging as a means to reduce the cost of disaster relief efforts without decreasing the effectiveness of the care that victims receive.
Telehealth can potentially reduce these costs in a number of important ways. One way it is able to do this is by cutting out the need for some transportation costs. Rather than needing to transport all victims to medical facilities, only those in critical conditions could be transported while other victims receive care and medical guidance remotely.
In addition, telehealth can reduce the number of medical professionals needed to respond to disasters. Instead, many individuals can rely on telehealth services to communicate directly with medical facilities in other areas. As telehealth evolves and becomes more effective, new ways of mitigating the cost of disaster relief efforts will likely arise.
Providing Key Mental Health Support
Though it’s incredibly important to get mental health support in the wake of an emergency or disaster, unfortunately, many victims often forego this form of support. A key reason for this is a lack of convenience and feeling unmotivated to do so. However, telehealth can solve this problem by making consultations with mental health professionals extremely accessible and convenient.
Given the high likelihood of victims of emergencies and disasters needing mental health support, medical facilities can automatically try to offer these services when responding to an emergency or disaster medical situation. In fact, establishing disaster communication plans is typically a key part of disaster relief.
By incorporating mental health professionals into disaster communication plans, the process of providing this type of care will be streamlined for victims of these events. In this way, more victims of these types of traumas will receive the mental health care they need and find tools to heal from their harrowing experiences.
Managing Medications in the Case of Emergencies and Disasters
In the case of emergencies and disasters, many victims typically require immediate care for critical wounds. While this is the case for some victims, others have preexisting conditions and a need for certain types of medication. If for some reason an emergency or disaster makes it difficult for a victim to access their medication, telehealth can help.
By communicating with a medical provider remotely, victims can find quick access to the medication they need. For instance, a medical provider can communicate with first responders and inform them about the situation. In some cases a medical provider can recommend applying non-pharmacologic pain management devices (like those, developed by Sensonica). In this way, more victims of these unfortunate events can get the medication they need and sustain an optimal state of health.
In other cases, disasters may limit the supply of pharmacies in the victims’ areas. During these times, telehealth sessions with medical providers can provide these victims with key guidance about what to do and how to respond to these situations. As such, telehealth can help many individuals stay healthy in the aftermath of emergencies and disasters.
Advanced Telehealth Will Play an Important Role in the Future of Healthcare
While telehealth has proved itself to be an effective medical practice in many different ways, one area in which its potential truly shines is in cases of emergencies and disasters. As it continues to advance and becomes more robust as a practice, its capabilities are increasing in many different contexts.
As we delve deeper into the future and medical care evolves, telehealth is sure to become a normalized form of medical care for masses of patients.