Using health IT tools after a major disaster to link first responders with remote specialists could significantly improve patient outcomes, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Systems, Healthcare IT News reports.
For the study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and the University of California-Davis compared standard emergency department-based triage and treatment following a disaster with telemedicine-enabled links between remote specialists and immediate responders.
Researchers found that using a telemedicine "hub" to handle communications between outside experts and first responders could decrease both patient wait times and hospitalization rates at nearby hospitals, in addition to increasing the chances of appropriate care for patients with life-threatening injuries.
Nrip Nihalani -- CEO of India-based health IT firm Plus91 -- wrote in a blog post that the disaster in Japan "should be taken as a wakeup call as well as a learning lesson by all nations which haven't yet devoted time and money to setting up nationwide health IT infrastructures."
According to Healthcare IT News, countries such as Australia already are testing telemedicine technology in emergency medicine settings. Australian officials have set up "medical kiosks" that feature laptops equipped with webcams, satellite terminals and telemedicine equipment that allow physicians to remotely examine patients and dispense medical advice (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 3/22).