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Hurricane Irene sparks talk of HIT disaster strategy

InformationWeek, September 7, 2011
Like other natural disasters before it, Hurricane Irene disrupted hospital services in the Northeast, causing hospital IT officials to once again mull their disaster preparedness strategies. Several recent reports in the aftermath of Irene show how damaging hurricanes can be to hospital systems. At Johnson Memorial Medical Center in Stafford Springs, CT, 43 patients were relocated to other medical facilities when the hospital lost power and utility workers were prevented from fixing the problem because of the approaching storm. At Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, reports surfaced that the hospital's IT department shut down its computer network, all applications, and phone systems. The hospital suffered minor damage. However, their information systems returned to full operations and, shortly after that, the facility was open for business due, in part, to what CIO Kathy Kania described as a business continuity plan that works. Reports like these have led Pam Matthews, senior director of regional affairs at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society to contemplate what happens to data when patients are transferred to other medical facilities.

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