Every time disaster strikes, we come face-to-face with the reality of how much we have actually progressed in terms of timely disaster response. A disaster can potentially bring innumerable damages, and severe risks to geography, society, and individuals. However, as part of an immediate response to any disaster, healthcare takes the forefront.
Every area struck by a disaster requires healthcare professionals at the earliest who can tend to emergency wounds. However, the very arrival and availability of these professionals have not always been a guarantee. Today, technological advancements are finally changing the way healthcare disaster-response occurs.
Often, it may take too long to get healthcare professionals to a disaster site due to issues of access and feasibility. With telehealth, it is now possible to get healthcare to the people without the need for professionals to be physically present. Telehealth has become essential in delivering essential and immediate care after a disaster. The importance of telehealth in disaster-response can be seen in places like Syria and West Africa, where telemedicine was heavily relied upon to bring relief during a war and Ebola outbreaks, respectively. In this way, telehealth is transforming healthcare systems and response units all over the world.
However, the advent of telehealth has also ushered in new levels of risk in terms of patient privacy and data safety. For these reasons, it is important that we first identify the flaws in the system. Once identified, these flaws become easier to overcome, and reduce the risk of sensitive data being compromised. Some ways to ensure that telehealth is “cyber-safe” include the following best practices when it comes to recording and storing patient data, investing in ongoing cyber-safety training for healthcare professionals, and keeping systems updated.
Over the last few years, drones have taken up the crucial task of leading disaster response plans. They are used to deliver essentials and to track what is happening in inaccessible areas. For healthcare, drones are a boon as they can provide a real-time, accurate picture to a professional about the damage that has occurred. Most importantly, they help in locating people in areas that have been cut off due to a disaster. Emergency responders can also use drones to spot the areas where essentials are available, and then deliver these to the areas that have no access.
Other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as robots and sensors are also being adopted by healthcare professionals to tackle disasters better. From the early prediction of disasters to enabling responders to accurately understand the topography of a disaster-site, AI has proven to be a strong and powerful tool that can completely transform disaster response and management for both healthcare and evacuation.
Assigning barcodes to every patient is relatively new, but has the potential to be a game-changer all over the world. Unique barcodes can immediately give any professional access to the full history of the patient. Not only does this change the way hospitals function, but it also changes the way emergency medicine is practiced. Right after a disaster, when certain patients may have to go through multiple procedures and move from the affected area to other areas after first aid, barcodes make for a viable tracking system for administered care.
With a scanner, the use of barcodes enables immediate access to a person’s medical history and also prevents incorrect prescriptions in times of stress. This technology is especially useful for nurses who are often at the front line after a disaster strikes due to their many competencies including risk reduction, psychological care, and education and preparedness. Technological developments like the use of barcodes can allow nurses to assess post-disaster situations quicker, and administer potentially life-saving care to disaster victims promptly.
Despite all the advancements in technology, nothing can be as valuable as being prepared when it comes to dealing with a disaster. Thus, having updated and efficient disaster management protocol should be a priority for every government. Technology and planning must go hand-in-hand to make disaster management and response as efficient and effective as possible.