Health Information Exchange Connects Docs With EHRs During Disaster

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, April 10, 2018
Robert Mecklenburg
Phillip L. Coule, MD, MBA

HIE connectivity enabled care for evacuated patients when Hurricane Irma hit.

Hurricane Irma cut a devastating path through the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, leaving 144 people dead and nearly $65 billion in damage in its wake in September 2017.

The terror of such a storm is most certainly magnified for hospitals and health systems, which must continue to care for—and often evacuate—vulnerable patients.   

"During a disaster, chaos is the norm," Phillip L. Coule, MD, MBA, interim vice president and chief medical officer at Augusta University Health System and interim associate dean for clinical affairs at the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University, told HealthLeaders Media via email.

Part of that chaos stems not only from having to evacuate patients but also having to send everyone with their medical records.

"Imagine trying to evacuate your entire hospital but you can't send anyone until you print all of the records—some of which are hundreds of pages," Coule says.

"With the complexities of EHRs and the amount of data that is tracked and reportable, it's not possible to transform that data into paper and then get it back into the system in a meaningful way at the new location," he says.

Therein lies an irony of EHRs: Although they've eliminated the problem of physical records being destroyed by a disaster, unconnected systems mean that all of that valuable patient information may as well be trapped.

"As a result, information is lost," Coule says.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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