In early 2006, Healthcare IT News reported that the Department of Defense was increasing its efforts to bring electronic health records to the Iraq war.
David S.C. Chu, MD, then under secretary of defense for personnel readiness, said the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application clinical data repository "provides a retrievable record, and that's essential, given the high rate of deployment that this global war against terrorism creates."
(Photo: PEOSoldier, via Flickr.)
Earlier this year, we reported that Onsite Occupational Health and Safety, which serves defense, energy and manufacturing clients across the globe, launched a telemedicine partnership with UPMC physicians, offering medical consultations on dermatology, infectious disease, neurology and orthopedics for patients in Afghanistan.
"Under the first agreement of its kind for Onsite OHS, these 'virtual' consultations will be a valuable addition to the care that we offer to our patients all over the world," said Kyle G. Johnson, president and CEO of Onsite OHS, in a press statement.
(Photo: The U.S. Army, via Flickr.)
Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina, healthcare providers on the Gulf Coast were still struggling to get back up and running.
In 2008, we profiled Biloxi, Miss.-based Coastal Family Health Center, whose damages included the loss of two of its seven locations and its entire IT and billing system.
Still, the center was on the rebound, opening three new permanent clinics, with health information technology a central focus of each.
"We lost up to 60,000 paper medical records due to the storm surge after Katrina," said Chuck Clark, Coastal's director of information systems. "We were completely reliant on our paper records, so we have to start over."
(Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans, via Flickr.)
Another casualty of Hurricane Katrina was Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, which at the time was run by Regina M. Benjamin, MD – who'd soon go on to become U.S. Surgeon General.
Disaster seemed to gravitate to the the clinic. In 1998, it was ravaged by Hurricane George. In 2005, it was flooded and nearly destroyed by Katrina. The very next year, just as it was set to reopen, the Bayou Clinic was destroyed by fire, destroying countless paper patient records.
Upon rebuilding once again, "I knew we had to find a better way," said Benjamin. "This time, we had to have an electronic health record."
In the wake of 2012's Hurricane Sandy, as patients were shuttled out of flooded, darkened hospitals in New York City, health information exchange technology was key to enabling critical continuity of care.
We spoke with David Whitlinger, executive director of New York eHealth Collaborative, which oversees the Statewide Health Information Network of New York. SHIN-NY sees itself as a "public utility" just as essential as much as electricity and transportation, he said.
Lesson- were learned after watching the devastation wrought by Katrina, said Whitlinger, and health IT was essential to a better infrastructure of care.
"Here we are a few years later, in New York, having invested several hundred million dollars in a HIE network, and we have much, much greater continuity of care, and much greater continuity of electronic health records," he said. "At a minimum, a majority of all healthcare institutions have electronic health records, and the back-ups of those records are not even in the city, they're elsewhere across the country. So even if the healthcare provider is not connected to the network, at a minimum, the patient's data is not lost."
(Photo: David Shankbone, via Flickr.)
Early preparation among IT and safety staff were key to coming through Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed, officials at Atlanticare, one of New Jersey’s largest healthcare systems, told Healthcare IT News.
Christopher Scanzera, Atlanticare's vice president and CIO, said IT staff communication and responsiveness were essential to keeping things up-and-running.
“We have an IT command center that we opened up, staffed with about a dozen people, and basically the responsibility there is to monitor and respond to any system-related outages,” he says. “We had staff in each of the campuses both from a user standpoint and from a technical support standpoint in the event there were any outages that need to be addressed.”
(Photo: New Jersey National Guard, via Flickr.)
After terrorism struck the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013, Editor Bernie Monegain spoke with Jonathan Teich, MD; Daniel Nigrin, MD, and John Halamka, MD – practicing physicians and CIOs/CMIOs at Brigham and Womens' Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – about the ways technology helped deliver fast and coordinated care to scores of wounded spectators, saving untold lives.
"From an IT perspective, maintaining a high bandwidth, reliable and secure infrastructure was key," said Halamka. "The demand for communication – voice, email, social media and streaming video was very high. The scalability built into the design of all our systems – networks, servers, storage, and client devices – served us well."
(Photo: Vjeran Pavic, via Flickr.)
"Aside from the shock and eventual anger we all felt at having this happen in our home town, it was a typical operational day," John Halamka, MD, told Healthcare IT News in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy.
In crises such as those, where systems are put to the test, Editor Bernie Monegain made the case that healthcare providers must always be ready to deliver the same: a "typical operational day."
Whether it's ensuring data center up-time, delivering vital information where and when it's needed or still making sure that, in the heat of the moment, patient data is kept private and secure, having robust and well-deployed information systems in place is essential, she wrote:
"Many of us do not know, or do not think about what a difference a strong and well-run IT department, can make to patient care – until it's put to the test."
(Photo: Craig Michaud, via Flickr.)