Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) — While Hurricane Sandy savaged hospitals in its path, forcing the evacuation of those that couldn’t withstand the wind and water, it left untouched the electronic medical records that the federal government hopes will be central features of the nation’s health care system.
Research by my Bloomberg Government colleague Suzanne Levingston found that despite Sandy’s fury, hospitals and doctors provided uninterrupted care to patients because they had real-time access to their data and case files.
Among the examples Suzanne cites is the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, a hospital whose electronic records remained available through an evacuation caused by Sandy.
This experience contrasts to when Hurricane Katrina forced hospitals in New Orleans to evacuate and cut off access to patient information. Levingston found that a combination of government mandates and financial incentives since Katrina forced health providers to create and implement disaster plans for their electronic health systems.
The government actions led to an explosion in the number of electronic medical records vendors and products. Hospitals and doctors balked at adopting electronic medical records and other health information tools, but Sandy may be enough to convince even the doubters that the systems help safeguard patients.
The rapid growth in the medical records business is likely to lead to consolidation. Sandy provided an unsolicited opportunity to test these products and vendors under extreme conditions.
Disasters are a reality and some expect them to become more frequent and severe. That reality presents a business opportunity to help health-care providers manage these risks by maintaining access to critical data, ensuring power supplies and protecting patients.
Sandy has demonstrated that electronic medical records can withstand nature’s harshest blows and allow doctors and hospitals to focus on what they should: saving lives.
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