mHealth program aims to help Deepwater Horizon victims

Three years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Louisiana, many residents still suffer from medical conditions linked to the oil spill. However, Health eVillages, a program of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights and Physicians Interactive, announced today that it will provide much-needed help to one of the hardest hit areas in Southwest Louisiana in the form of handheld devices which include the latest specialized medical reference content including videotaped instruction by some of the world's top medical professionals.

As a non-profit organization with limited financial resources, doctors and nurses at the Teche Action Clinics in Louisiana previously had to rely on books and intermittent internet service for medical references and clinical decision support tools. Now, community health professionals in four parishes heavily affected by the oil spill have immediate access to clinical decision support resources via mobile devices and apps.

"We are building these mobile devices and preloading them with information that is specific to dermatological diseases as a result of a toxic chemical spill," Donato Tramuto (pictured), CEO and Vice Chairman of Physicians Interactive and Founder and Chairman of Health eVillages, told FierceMobileHealthcare.

"They were severely impacted by the BP oil spill and so we're hoping that in this community especially that we will elevate the speed with which the diagnosis and treatment will be conducted, as well as collecting information that will help us to collate it and to understand what are the commonalities of the diseases that are being treated that will help other folks who will come into the doctor's office," said Tramuto.

The mHealth program will start at Teche's main clinic in Franklin, La., with the potential for expansion to all 10 Teche Action Clinics in rural areas, which serve 18,000 residents of St. Mary, St. John, St. James and Terrebone Parishes.

Health eVillages provides handheld devices, such as smartphones, iPod Touches and iPads, that include specialized medical reference content and clinical decision support tools to clinicians in developing countries. Since the program launched in 2011, Health eVillages has put devices in the hands of clinicians worldwide, enabling critical improvements to patient care in China, Haiti, Kenya, and Uganda.

This is the first time, however, that the organization has initiated such an mHealth program in the United States, according to Tramuto.

Last month, Health eVillages announced that it will serve as the basis of a nurse educator program providing coordinators with mobile resources needed to help bolster the quality of care in the area around Hinche, a city in central Haiti. Through the program, Health eVillages will sponsor two coordinators--one from Regis College in Weston, Mass. and one from Haiti--and will also support the health center in Hinche by sending Regis' nurse educators, armed with iPod Touches, to teach there twice a year.

The Haitian coordinator will receive training at Regis College on Physicians Interactive's Skyscape medical resource app running on Apple iPad and iPod Touch devices. She will then return to Hinche to train her staff on how to use the devices to deliver better patient care at the health center and nearby rural areas. The devices have been updated with several new French-language medical apps to increase accessibility for the Haitian nurses.  

To learn more:
- read the announcement