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Hurricane Harvey No Match for Health IT

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   September 12, 2017

Electronic communications and cloud-based tools helped healthcare providers in Texas deliver patient care before, during, and after the storm.

The nation's focus shifted to Hurricane Irma and Florida over the weekend, while the city of Houston and a huge swath of Texas was still cleaning up from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Dan Jenson, CFO of VillageMD-Houston, shared how his organization used technology to prepare for the storm, keep in touch with patients as Harvey hit, and to get back on its feet in the aftermath.

VillageMD is a physician services company that partners with independent primary care physicians and health systems for value-based care.

In Houston, it partners with Village Family Practice, a city-wide network with 11 clinics and more than 100 affiliated doctors. After the storm, only one of those clinics had major flooding.

Nine of the clinics were operational by Thursday, August 31 (the storm made its first landfall on August 25).

Before the Storm

As Harvey approached, the clinic staff considered all scenarios—lost power, downed phone lines, no internet access—to determine how patients could stay in touch with physicians throughout the storm. They then communicated those plans to patients.

"We thought the best thing to do—beyond making sure our property was secure, [was to make sure] our IT systems were as secure as possible—was to make sure that we did as much communication before the storm hit to make sure that our patients knew who to call, what phone lines would be available to reach out physicians," Jenson says.

In its day-to-day operations, the clinics used their Athenahealth portal to send communication campaigns out to specific cohorts of patients.

The problem, though, was that the portal only had the capability to reach 10,000 patients at a time. As they prepared for Harvey, the clinics needed to reach more than 150,000 patients.

So they contacted athenahealth to explain their predicament.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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