Hurricane Irene Highlights Life-Saving Potential of Mobile EMRs

Posted on August 31, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Watching the East Coast prepare for Hurricane Irene last weekend had me flashing back to the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit Joplin, Missouri, earlier this year. Would hospitals suffer the same levels of destruction that St. John’s Regional Medical Center did? Would they be as successful in evacuating patients and treating them off-site with limited supplies and infrastructure?

Fortunately, lessons learned from providers in Joplin, and to a greater extent from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, enabled providers along the East Coast to implement well thought-out disaster preparedness plans at their facilities. Mother Nature also lent a hand by withholding from Hurricane Irene the extreme conditions her predecessor unleashed on the South some six years ago.

The team at North Shore – Long Island Jewish Health System makes a compelling case study for the smoothness with which detailed planning can bring to hospital evacuation scenarios. The short video below gives a glimpse into the efforts the hospital’s staff put forth to evacuate 252 in-patients and 50 emergency department patients in less than 24 hours. The helpful Mr. HISTalk has compiled a brief list of updates on several additional hospitals affected by the storm (scroll down to the bottom of the post for updates).

It was by pure coincidence that news of e-MDs’ launch of its Rounds® mobile EMR app for the iPhone reached my desk just as Hurricane Irene was closing in on land. The new app enables physicians to remotely and securely key in patient information from their EHRs via their mobile device – surely a tool that physicians would find useful in treating patients during an evacuation process such as that undertaken by North Shore-LIJ.

Patrick Hall, Executive Vice President of Business Development at e-MDs, told me that the mobile health solution was launched “to help our physician clients stay connected to patient information. We have observed that [they] have been dealing with more and more work when they are away from the office. This provides them with a convenient tool to deal with some of this, using an easily carried device that gives them access to complete patient information so they can make informed decisions about patient care.”

I’ll be interested to learn if any hospitals or private practice physicians came away with “success” stories because of their mobile EMR solutions. I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that successes this time around far outnumber the failures.