The Promise of Direct-to-Consumer Telehealth for Disaster Response and Recovery

Published in: Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, Access Volume 31, Issue 4 August 2016, pp. 454-456. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X16000558

by Lori Uscher-Pines, Shira H. Fischer, Ramya Chari

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Telehealth has great promise to improve and even revolutionize emergency response and recovery. Yet telehealth in general, and direct-to-consumer (DTC) telehealth in particular, are underutilized in disasters. Direct-to-consumer telehealth services allow patients to request virtual visits with health care providers, in real-time, via phone or video conferencing (online video or mobile phone applications). Although DTC services for routine primary care are growing rapidly, there is no published literature on the potential application of DTC telehealth to disaster response and recovery because these services are so new. This report presents several potential uses of DTC telehealth across multiple disaster phases (acute response, subacute response, and recovery) while noting the logistical, legal, and policy challenges that must be addressed to allow for expanded use.

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