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Harvey’s Youngest Evacuees Saved by Newest Telemedicine Legislation

It’s a good thing that Texas just passed a law easing restrictions on telemedicine visits; otherwise, countless children displaced by Hurricane Harvey would likely be unable to receive prompt medical care for recent injuries, infections, or chronic conditions like asthma. Luckily, the new telemedicine legislation permits real-time visits without an initial in-person visit, allowing doctors across the state to see the children through the technology.

In Dallas, Children’s Health, a pediatric hospital, is using telemedicine to see young Houston residents staying at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. There are roughly three times as many children there as adults, and although doctors for adults are available around the clock, pediatric specialists are lacking. Telemedicine allows ER physicians at the hospital to remotely see and treat children at the shelter. Common ailments include rashes, infections, behavioral health issues such as anxiety and depression, and health problems caused by exposure to floodwater containing chemicals, contaminants, or viruses and bacteria from dead animals.

The telemedicine setup has gained approval from site workers, who themselves can fall ill, and from physicians who no longer have to be on call all night as they did for previous disaster response efforts. Across the country, doctors have been calling in and offering to help with their telemedicine programs, but they cannot treat patients without a license to practice in Texas. Still, the outpouring of support is heartwarming to see; this ability to use technology to deliver needed health care in such an extreme situation is an excellent example of telemedicine at its finest.

To read more, visit STAT here.

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