Virtual visits and telemedicine have been successfully used in disasters such as hurricane responses in Texas and the Gulf Coast in the fall of 2017. Despite having 24-hour coverage, there was still a gap in coverage for some of the specialties and pediatrics. Telehealth provided services including prescriptions for routine medications, evaluation of insect bites, rashes, wound infections, as well as mental health consults.
Telehealth should be considered in all disaster planning, particularly for surge (rapid increase in patients) management. It may be advantageous to develop relationships with other health systems for services and telehealth providers in the event of a disaster. Virtual visits can be managed easily from any location using a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, assuming there is internet or cellular access.
Authored by Cindy Ebner, MSN, RN, CPHRM, FASHRM and Melissa A. Singer Pressman, PhD, MLIS