by Audrey Kinsella
In early reports of the horrific toll on lives and property wreaked by Hurricane Harvey, there were a few stories about efforts to assist elderly flood victims. A September 1 New York Times article chronicled these efforts under the title, "For vulnerable older adults, a harrowing sense of being trapped.” Access to these otherwise inaccessible individuals was often possible, however, through telemedicine service delivery.
One of these news stories described a Houston-based telemedicine practice called "Rowe Docs." The owners made a virtual network of 50 doctors available for free to people who hurriedly left their homes, often without packing their medications. Dr. Latisha Rowe said Wednesday, August 30, that Rowe Docs' physicians are coordinating with doctors and nurses volunteering at shelters to treat and write prescriptions for Harvey evacuees who fled their homes without medicine or who sustained injuries on the way out.
She said the greatest threat in shelters comes from contaminated water many people waded through to safety, and that infections need to be "contained and controlled" so they do not spread. Among Rowe Docs network's doctors is Angela Nunnery, who escaped her flooded home on Houston's north side by boat and dump truck with her husband, children, 78-year-old mother and two dogs. In addition to her daily shift attending patients online, Dr. Nunnery has been volunteering at her church, which became a makeshift shelter for about 150 evacuees. She reports that local pharmacists have been providing patients with a week's supply of free medicine.
Health publication STAT described remote medical services provided to children at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center by emergency room physicians using telemedicine from Children's Health in Dallas. "For every adult that comes in, there will be about three children," Scott Summerall, spokesperson for Children’s Health, told STAT. "We have doctors for adults available at the shelter 24 hours a day, but we don’t have as many pediatric specialists, especially at night." Full article
Care Connect, an organization of Texas-based physicians (CareConnect.com), is offering, free of charge, virtual healthcare services, possibly through October. This group says it expects this service will mostly be used people living with chronic diseases. According to one Care Connect provider, Chris Bailey, "...one way we hope to help is to reduce the burden on existing medical teams in Texas. That’s what telehealth is all about, providing patients access to their providers."
HUMANITARIAN TELEMEDICINE: THE REACHBACK STORY
Other health service providers that have stepped up to help include the University of Michigan and the Texas Association for Home Health and Hospice. Also surfacing is an entity called ReachBack, a recovery network led by Dave Balch, former Director of the internationally-acclaimed Telemedicine Center at Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. At The Center, Balch became a recognized disaster telemedicine planner at sites such as the annual SuperBowl. ReachBack.com, led by Balch and his wife Lori, can assist Houston residents with, or now without, homes using telemedicine in temporary shelters by providers skilled in telemedicine planning and delivery.
The ReachBack organization describes itself as "a humanitarian group that leads efforts in Distributed Medical Intelligence for disaster response. We have built a large network of clinical providers in all specialties and supporting technicians to deploy rapid response to natural and man-made disasters. We have established a web-site, ReachBack.org, a free telemedicine cloud, and boots on the ground in Texas. We have the ability to coordinate virtual clinics for any group of providers, support physician filtering, and provide Tier 1 technical support for video rooms. We anticipate providing virtual visits in shelters using our low bandwidth solutions, where we can share resource documents and links on the fly on our site."
This organization has developed and posted lists of more than 280 shelters, from churches to schools to libraries, servicing the Houston community. Its website indicates which of these shelters also acts as a distribution center. Lists are also provided about what supplies are needed at each shelter, including medicine, food, water, bedding and clothes, and other urgent needs such as volunteers. ReachBack employs "ZelloWork," a network-based voice messaging system, for its communication-recovery network. ZelloWork works with smartphones, tablets, and most rugged mobile computers.
And now, on to Florida.
Audrey Kinsella, MA, MS, is HCTR's telemedicine reporter. She has written on home telehealthcare and new technologies for home care service delivery for 20 years, in 6 books, multiple web sites, and more than 150 published articles. Audrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-348-5308.
©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com