Hospitals tap telehealth for disaster response

Disaster preparedness group the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance has an mHealth weapon up its sleeve for the next major crisis in the region. It's eCareMobile, a Philips wireless tele-ICU unit, and Washington, D.C.-area hospitals have set up its video-conferencing and other telehealth functionality to allow clinicians to triage patients and communicate remotely with on-site providers during a disaster.

"It allows a small number of doctors to triage a large number of patients," Will Jackson, medical director for Inova's Telemedicine Institute tells FierceMobileHealthcare.

We recently talked with Jackson about the ongoing project, now that most of the Alliance's 14 member hospitals--including all five Inova facilities--have obtained eCareMobile units through Homeland Security grants.

"Katrina and other disasters have shown that clinicians may not have all the resources that they need at the point of care," Terry Davis, patient care director for Inova's tele-ICU program, told TMCnet after using the technology in a disaster drill late last year. "The two-way video capability of eCareMobile enabled effective collaboration between the emergency responders and the triage officer to ensure that their most critical patients received the urgent care that was needed."

Now that all member hospitals have the units, though, they're looking for other ways to use the equipment outside of disaster preparedness, Jackson says. The most likely first initiative will be stroke-related, using the wireless units to connect off-site neurologists with stroke patients who present in the ER. "Tele-stroke clinical protocols are pretty well established," making them a solid place to start trying to expand the units' use, he adds.

To learn more:
- read the TMCNet piece