We’ve often heard the good and bad stories that come out of disasters like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. In some cases, the EHR is a savior and is able to get the doctor the data they need because the EHR is still up and running and can be accessed remotely. In other cases, the power supplies are flooded and the EHR is down for the count (check out this video interview where I discuss why Las Vegas data centers don’t have these natural disaster issues).
A similar story hit my inbox right before HIMSS that looked at the benefits of having an EHR during all the ice storms (#Snowmageddon as Jennifer Dennard called it).
What happened in this story is that hundreds of patients and medical people were stuck at the physician office because of the storm (ironically this was at University of Alabama – Birmingham health system, the same place that brain surgeon walked 6 miles in the storm to do surgery). No one brought their medications, since they assumed they’d go in for a 15 minute appointment, then go home for the day. This left the patients and the practice in a challenging situation.
The good part is that the Kirklin Clinic, where this occurred, was on the Cerner EHR which had ePrescribing and access to the patients prescription history. Plus, there was a pharmacy a few minute walk away from the clinic.
This is a pretty small example, unless you’re the patient trapped in the clinic and needed access to your meds. Then, the fact that the clinic could quickly access your med history and write a prescription for you to get your medication while you waited out the storm is literally a life saver.
The problem with stories like this is that they’re hard to add in to an EHR ROI calculation. I believe there are hundreds of small examples like this where a connected EHR with your medical history can not only provide better patient care, but also save lives. There’s just no good way to put a possible saved life on an ROI calculation.