After Hurricane Harvey and Irma hit the Gulf Coast in August 2017, America’s leading telemedicine companies volunteered their services to people and institutions in medical need. As reported in Med City News, American Well, Doctor on Demand, MDLive and Teladoc provided free 24/7 physical and behavioral health consults in Texas and Florida through their nationwide virtual care networks.
These services were desperately needed. Almost 60 Houston-area and Southeastern U.S. hospitals evacuated patients. Healthcare facilities that remained open struggled with high volume, understaffing, power outages and supply shortages.
Telemedicine delivered a vital lifeline, connecting physicians throughout the country with patients and care-providers needing assistance. Telemedicine’s timely interventions saved lives, lowered stress, enhanced care delivery and reduced suffering.
It’s perplexing that healthcare systems have not integrated telemedicine’s capabilities more holistically into their standard delivery platforms. Telemedicine knows no borders, or shouldn’t. The technology represents victory over distance and freedom over infrastructure.
The passage of the Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017 marks another step forward in the adoption of telemedicine services. The bill allows VA healthcare providers to deliver telemedicine across state borders to reach patients wherever they are in need.