Saturday, January 23, 2010

Communications and Telemedicine

While in Haiti, our team has been able to communicate with the outside world.  While some partners have access to a satellite phone for emergencies and there is limited access to the internet during some parts of the day, the most reliable method of communication have been by SMS text message.  Most IMANA volunteers have been able to send and receive short messages using the phones they brought with them from the United States.  Voice communications with those phones have been inconsistent, although IMANA physician teams being deployed this weekend are traveling with 2-way radios which will make communicating inside Haiti more reliable.

Besides the obvious need to communicate with other volunteers and family members at home, the availability of phones with cameras has allowed IMANA doctors to send images of patients to specialists for consultation.  One man told the IMANA team he had eye surgery over a week before the earthquake for an eye infection.  Now, the facility where he had his procedure was flattened and he had no idea where his doctor was, or even if he was alive.  He presented with this drainage tube sutured externally to his nose.  By sending images using her phone, Dr. Ayesha Mian, a psychiatrist volunteering in Port-au-Prince,  was able to confirm with Dr. Rabeea Janjua, an ophthalmologist in Maryland, that this tube would be safe to remove after cutting the external stitches as long as there was no drainage.  The tube was removed successfully.  In such a manner, IMANA physicians are able to consult with a wide variety of subspecialists in the United States for the benefit of the earthquake victims they are seeing.

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