In a COVID-dominated world, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management is taking an innovative approach to dealing with health care access that could pay dividends down the road.
While setting up a triage facility in Miami to prepare for case overflow (which thankfully has not happened) DEM brought in highly specialized field-ready telehealth stations — the same units that are on board Air Force One.
Now we own those units and that’s good. With hurricane season only a few short weeks away and the first storm already churning, DEM’s forward-thinking move will not only allow for remote telehealth access for COVID-19 circumstances but families who may be affected in a storm-related crisis as well.
Florida lawmakers allowed for the expansion of telehealth a few years ago with the intention of expanding remote access technologies into health care. During the COVID-19 crisis there has been a dramatic expansion in use and providers are seeing myriad uses for the technology.
For example, after Hurricane Michael and with the inspiration of First Lady Casey DeSantis, the Department of Children and Families and Big Bend Community Based Care deployed over 60 telehealth stations to public schools in 6 rural counties.
These underserved areas were struggling to find counselors and others to make the journey to rural counties. By all measures the program has been a success as students and families who otherwise would not be seen can avail themselves of counseling — certainly not better than an in-person session, but clearly better than nothing which is what too many students were getting.
Back to the present. The Department of Emergency Management has secured and deployed 10 Hi-Tech HIPAA compliant rugged telehealth stations that can also be used, at a moment’s notice, in the event a hurricane makes landfall.
These machines, built and serviced by industry-leader Let’s Talk Interactive, can be deployed for families who are displaced, seeking shelter and in need of counseling.
“These rugged telehealth-portals are hardened self-powering cases that can operate under the most extreme conditions — exactly the kinds of conditions we see after a major disaster — and can help families reconnect with whatever support systems they need from reaching out to counselors to seeing a remote physician,” Let’s Talk Interactive CEO Art Cooksey said.
These field-ready stations can serve as a lifeline. They also come equipped with medical devices in case someone needs to be remotely evaluated and are equipped with blood-pressure cuffs, pulse and oxygen readers as well as thermometers to help health care workers gain a preliminary diagnosis.