Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters Should Nudge Healthcare Executives Towards Cloud-based EHR

Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters Should Nudge Healthcare Executives Towards Cloud-based EHR

It’s time to evacuate. People pack their pictures, family heirlooms, clothes, the basic essentials to live somewhere new for weeks, months or even permanently.

Medical records are far down the packing list, but it can wreak havoc on a patient’s care down the road when they are settled or in a tragic, life-threatening emergency. Doctors and Emergency Departments in surrounding towns are starting from scratch. How much patient care is sacrificed? How much money is spent running repeat labs or radiology tests? And how can C-suite healthcare executives prevent it?

Cloud-based EHR’s Eliminate Need for Paper Records

Medical treatment is managed at a local level, in a silo model. True cloud models are fairly new, only coming into the market in the last decade. C-suite healthcare executives can begin by examining the major healthcare crisis after Hurricane Katrina – which lasted more than a year.

Patient care is inarguably affected in these situations and the C-suite can use technology that addresses it.

  • CEO’s should begin thinking about the lack of efficiency when a healthcare organization or provider starts from scratch. And they should have a structured plan in place to prep for natural disasters and how to deal with the aftermath, when patient records are destroyed.
  • CTO’s should move towards the internal structure necessary for a cloud-based EHR
  • athenahealth, Cerner and Epic are the only true cloud-based EHR’s and are working together to increase patient safety.

Hospitals are the most important infrastructure in a natural disaster and also one of the worst affected. They need access to patient records, even if the files are under water. Fox News reported it in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, but we have not moved very far into electronic-based healthcare technology.

Aftermath of a natural disaster

Kaiser took a hard and detailed look at how Katrina affected healthcare. Integrated healthcare systems are at a bigger advantage to deal with displaced patients because their records are available at any Kaiser facility.

Many evacuees leave quickly, without refilling prescription medicine and arrive in a new city, not knowing the correct dosages of their regular medicines – if they even remember to get all of their prescription meds. Many watched their necessary medicines simply dissolve in the water.

The sudden run on pharmacies left them with shortages and mental health patients facing a new trauma playing out in shelters across the area. Imagine someone with an anxiety disorder left in a shelter without their belongings and a limited staff helping them cope.

In the aftermath of Katrina, studies found 30% of ER visits were to treat chronic disease patients displaced after the storms, with no medical records in hand. Dialysis treatment facilities closed, causing patients who need care every 2-3 days without options.

There is a long-term effect in the healthcare field after a natural disaster that cannot be ignored and must be planned for to avoid problems of the past.

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