Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Electronic Health Records Prove Useful in a Disaster

The recent disastrous tornadoes in Oklahoma caused people all over the state, and all over the country, to jump into action. Over 40 people were killed in two separate events, and even more required medical attention. In an emergency, everyone expects the hospital to jump into action to help the wounded, but what happens when the hospital is destroyed? That is where electronic health records come into play. In Moore, OK, the site of most severe tornadoes,  the hospital was leveled. Three hundred people including staff, patients, and other community members that were in there at the time waited out the storm in the cafeteria, chapel, and in various stairwells. Luckily, all survived according to AARP.

With Moore Medical Center destroyed, patients had to be moved to other hospitals in the Norman Regional Health System. Within an hour, 30 patients had already been transferred to other hospitals that were able to seamlessly continue treatment prescribed in the patients electronic health records.

If the hospital had been using paper records, the process of finding a patient file to determine a patient’s medical history, medications, current treatment plans, etc. would have been a lot harder. The director of health information technology at the Norman Health System explained that the paper records would have most likely have been destroyed by either the tornado or the rain that followed.

Instead, transitions were easy and patients were taken care of with minimal inconvenience. In this case, the lessons learned by using electronic health records can be applied to any disaster that requires medical attention. The electronic records definitely improved patient care following a disaster, and may have even saved lives. 

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