After Harvey, telehealth providers double down on response efforts for Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma has been downgraded to a category four storm, but that is no reason for hoteliers or citizens in its path to relax.
Healthcare providers and vendors are once again offering free telehealth consultations to hurricane victims--this time in Florida.

After telehealth providers offered up free services to victims of Hurricane Harvey last week, the telehealth community is replicating the same approach as Hurricane Irma churns through Florida.

In the wake of unprecedented devastation throughout Southeast Texas from Hurricane Harvey, telemedicine vendors like American Well, MDLive, Doctor on Demand and Teledoc offered free services for victims of the storm. Florida-based Nemours Children’s Health also chipped in with free care via the system’s CareConnect platform.

RELATED: In Texas, Hurricane Harvey response efforts provide a ‘defining moment’ for telehealth

Now Florida is staring down its own disaster response with Hurricane Irma flooding parts of the states and those same vendors are again stepping in to provide support. American Well began offering services on Friday, expanding its reach from Texas and Louisiana to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. 

Nemours also began providing complimentary visits to families in Florida and Georgia on Friday, according to a release.

Others, like LiveHealth Online and Florida Hospital, are also offering free telehealth services. With locations in Orlando, Tampa and Daytona Beach, Florida Hospital is providing care through its eCare app that typically costs $49 per visit. MDLive, announced a partnership with AvMed, one of Florida’s largest health plans, to provide virtual visits to members in 30 counties across the state.

Meanwhile, Allscripts and Surescripts announced a collaboration to provide free access to patient-specific medication history data for pharmacists in Texas and Louisiana. Surescripts data showed a 93% decrease in prescription volume after the storm as medical providers shut down, in part because patients have trouble accessing their physician in the aftermath of a storm.

The partnership with Allscripts allows pharmacists to access a 12-month history of patient data, and a Texas state law allows pharmacists to dispense up to 30-days worth of prescriptions drugs without authorization from the prescribing practitioners.  

For the first time, the American Red Cross is using drones to assess damage throughout areas of Texas and determine what geographic areas need the most aid. In a partnership with the UPS Foundation and drone manufacturer CyPhy Works, the Red Cross plans to test tethered drones as a way of prioritizing assistance to communities with the worst devastation. Officials said the pilot program will serve as a model for a rapid response team in the future that could be deployed in the aftermath of Irma.

Drone footage from CBS News captured the devastation in Naples Florida after Irma ripped through the city on Sunday.