Telemedicine Is Earliest Relief After a Disaster : With effective communications, physicians can practice beyond the emergency operation centers.


After reconstructive surgery at the Rawalpindi medical facility, patients were sent back to tent facilities in the mountains to recover. Surgeons were even able to send patients with complex orthopedic repairs to the mountains, knowing that staff would be able to telecommunicate about the patients' status and any postsurgical problems that arose.

“They never did overwhelm the hospital,” Dr. Merrell said. “They were able to use telecommunications to move patients down out of the mountains for definitive care and get them out and back to the mountains in a fraction of the usual time—in about 48 hours.”

Dr. Merrell and Dr. Rafiq returned to Pakistan in January 2006 to help assess the surgical systems and telemedicine facilities as the country moved from its post-earthquake crisis phase to a reconstruction phase. Telemedicine will continue to help Pakistani medical workers use their time most efficiently and make health care more integrated.

Dr. Merrell, left, with Dr. Khan and Dr. Gilani, outside the clinic in Rawalpindi following last year's earthquake in Pakistan. Courtesy Dr. Ronald C. Merrell

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