Natural disasters such as major hurricanes can inflict significant damage on millions of American citizens and heavily disrupt their way of life.
With each major hurricane comes the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Lives disrupted and healthcare disrupted.
Fortunately, electronic medical record (EMR) systems have provided a solution to this problem in the wake of recent major hurricanes, especially with Hurricane Harvey.
The category four storm made landfall in Texas and has displaced thousands of people due to the destructive flooding of their homes and property. It's in these kinds of national tragedies where the technology of EMR systems shines brightest.
Of course this wasn't always the case. Back when Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, only 25 percent of doctors had adopted EMR systems. This led to widespread data loss and patients often receiving repetitive and unnecessary treatments. There simply wasn't accurate information available in regard to a specific patient's healthcare.
As of the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, now approximately 75 percent of doctors report using an EMR system in their practice or hospital, so the widespread data loss won't be replicated in Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Harvey.
"Even in the unfortunately case of a total loss of our physical facility, which thankfully didn't happen, we could plug in to any location with remote backup and resume normal operations fairly quickly," J. Stefan Walker, MD, who practices at Corpus Christi (Texas) Medical Associates, told Bloomberg BNA when asked about the group's EHR.
The data sharing capabilities were especially helpful for those organizations that were completely displaced by the damage done during Harvey. Even though certain hospitals were forced to evacuate patients and move them to a completely different facility, EMR technology made it simple for providers to receive pertinent patient information such as allergies, medications and diagnostic images.
Ultimately, EMR systems empower greater coordination of care between providers. In times of crisis like this one from Harvey in Texas, patient care doesn't suffer like it would if a patient's record were stored on paper. This continuation of care is particularly important to patients who are undergoing treatment or who have chronic or complex illnesses that need attention, even during a major storm such as Hurricane Harvey.
While major hurricanes are a phenomena that no one wants to experience, it should be of great comfort that in the worst of circumstances, a patient's health records are not nearly as vulnerable as they were in the past.