Virtual First Responders

The Role of Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine in Caring for People Impacted by Natural Disasters

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine [Epub April 2018]. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4440-8

Posted on RAND.org on June 04, 2018

by Lori Uscher-Pines, Shira H. Fischer, Ian Tong, Ateev Mehrotra, Rosalie Malsberger, Kristin Ray

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Direct-to-consumer (DTC) telemedicine offers patients immediate access to remote physicians via personal devices. These services were originally designed for patients seeking care for minor acute illnesses. In disasters, however, DTC telemedicine may facilitate care that would otherwise be inaccessible due to displacement, unpassable roads, emergency closures, or increased demand for healthcare services. For the first time during the 2017 hurricane season, several DTC telemedicine companies including Doctor on Demand, MDLIVE, Teladoc, American Well, and LiveHealth Online offered free visits to hurricane victims. To understand the role that DTC telemedicine may play in disaster response and recovery, we describe services provided by one DTC telemedicine company during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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