Mobile health aid to Japan about more than technology


It's often easy to forget amid all the hype of various technologies and collaborations that people--both providers and patients--remain at the heart of mobile healthcare.

To that end, I want to take a moment to thank Randy Roberson, and others like him, for dedicating their time and efforts to providing in-person support for those affected by the ongoing tragic events in the Pacific.

Roberson, a disaster-response specialist (@telehelp on Twitter) who departed for the earthquake and tsunami devastated northeast region of Japan this past weekend--and who has been providing such aid for the last 14 years--I believe is one of the more effective proponents for the continued advancement of mobile healthcare. He may not tout the merits of the newest healthcare apps or test the latest mobile health devices, but through his work with organizations like Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness (H.E.L.P.), he helps to turn mobile medical care into a real, tangible thing for those in the most dire straits.

In Japan--as he did in Haiti last year, and in Indonesia in 2004--Roberson will help to set up mobile clinics that provide telemedical gear, as well as access to specialists in remote locations. He understands the risks involved with going to Japan, specifically regarding the unstable nuclear situation unfolding, but also realizes what it means for him not to go.

"Communications are almost always knocked out and the infrastructure is overwhelmed," Roberson told FierceMobileHealthcare of the situations he typically heads into. "That's why we do what we do."

Roberson anticipates that despite the devastation he is certain to see, raising the dollars necessary to make a real difference likely will be his biggest challenge.

"We need to be able to cover transport costs ... and make sure that we have an ample amount of satellite time allocated so that we can ... have a live audio/video link running," Roberson said. "To be able to do that ... we paid up to $16.50 a minute down in Haiti. For the highly portable type of satellite communications out of a backpack, which is what I've been working with, it's not cheap, but it's highly effective. We're working with trying to get the word out to as many different groups."

Hopefully H.E.L.P can accomplish its goal of raising $50,000 for such relief. According to the Telehelp web page, the organization has raised just over $2,500, so far.

And while technology--Twitter, text messaging and the like--may be a key to raising a good portion of that money, it ultimately comes down to people who are willing to give a little--like Roberson--to make a difference. - Dan

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