The impact of EHRs during Hurricane Harvey

At Elation Health, we are deeply concerned about the impact that Hurricane Harvey has had on the people living in Texas and Louisiana. Residents have had to flee their flooded homes and seek shelter elsewhere. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes have had to transport their residents to safer locations. Healthcare facilities have had to evacuate their patients and find other providers for them, outside of the devastation area.

Fortunately, many of the physicians attending to those patients still have access to their medical information. The Bloomberg BNA Healthcare Blog reports that most healthcare providers in the Houston area have adopted electronic health records (EHRs), “which has helped to support displaced patients and providers.” EHRs ensure that physicians and other providers continue to have access to critical medical information even if their facilities have been flooded out.

Prior to the implementation of EHRs, medical records were kept on paper in a filing system. If those papers were lost or soaked in a flood, the patient’s information would be lost as well. EHRs enable physicians to coordinate care with other providers, a crucial need in times of disaster such as the devastation caused by Harvey.

As the Healthcare Blog points out, those providers who are now seeing patients previously treated in hurricane-damaged areas “can have instant access to patient information such as allergies, active medications, and diagnostic imagery.” Physicians who take advantage of the features of EHRs are able to login from anywhere and manage their patients’ care, including sharing information with their new providers.

Patients who have the capability to communicate electronically with their providers can also continue to access their information through EHRs, even when their providers’ offices may have been flooded or otherwise damaged. This continuation of care is particularly important to patients who are undergoing treatment or who have chronic or complex illnesses that need attention, even during a major storm such as Hurricane Harvey.