- Posted November 13, 2012 by
Goshen, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'Superstorm' Sandy: Your stories
HEALTHCARE CLOUD OFFERS SHELTER
By Sandra Levy
Hurricane Sandy crashed into the east coast of the United States leaving widespread damage in its path. Millions of business users experienced disruptions in the wake of the storm. In the midst of this catastrophic event, many healthcare providers were able to continue vital patient care and keep essential communication flowing with use of the Electronic Medical Record Software (EMR) on the Internet… commonly known as the EMR Cloud.
No Disruption in Medical Service
“The utility poles were down. Trees are all over the place. All of Nutley, New Jersey was out of power. There are five practices in the building and we were the only office that could call patients and tell them our situation and tell them if they needed to go to the hospital. Another doctor in the building had a different system. He came upstairs, and said, ‘I can’t believe you guys are working.’ He wasn’t even able to login to his system,” said Jennifer Mendez, Medical Assistant to Dr. Derrick Wallace of Ear, Nose & Throat Solutions in Nutley, NJ.
Mendez was able to access patient records via the EMR Cloud. “I was able to do everything. We came to work every day and saw many patients during the storm week. We started calling patients to let them know that we are on the second floor and the elevator was not working. We scheduled patients who confirmed that they were able to use the stairs. We explained, ‘It’s a little dark, there’s only light in two rooms.’ But we were seeing the patients like we normally do.”
The inability to provide care to patients in the immediate aftermath of a storm can have a devastating impact on a patient’s health, especially if they are taking medications. “Patients couldn’t believe we were open. We signed them in and they were in shock. We were able to send electronic prescriptions to Target and CVS. Walgreens wasn’t able to receive Rxs because they didn’t have power, so we printed the prescriptions for those patients,” said Mendez.
Eye on the Storm for Ophthalmology Practice
In Hurricane ravaged Rockland County, NY, numerous medical practices were unable to operate due to power outages. Dr. Richard Gordon, M.D., at Ophthalmology Associates in Pomona, was able to maintain patient care, as usual. “We have a secondary Internet line, so even when the cable modem was out, the DSL kicked in and we were still able to see patients. We also have a generator in the office. The two together worked beautifully for three days. It was reassuring to know that we could access our data from anywhere, answer patient’s questions and refill prescriptions even outside of the office, and still provide care during the outage,” Dr. Gordon said.
Medical Operations without EMR Cloud Experience Peril
It appears that Hurricane Sandy is providing many lessons that will go a long way in helping providers protect their practice and patients in the future. The experience of large hospitals, like New York University Langone Medical Center, which had to evacuate 300 patients during the height of the storm due to power outages sheds light on the lifesaving benefits of cloud EMRs. Patients there were reportedly transported with only a summary of their records, since NYU lacked power to print out full records, and telephone problems made it difficult to get in touch with their doctors initially to review plans. Kent Sepkowitz, Sloan-Kettering Vice Chairman of Medicine for Clinical Affairs reportedly admitted that it took some time to get familiarized with the patients.
Cloud EMR is a Lifesaver
The cloud EMR is not only a lifesaving tool during a disastrous storm, but it can also enhance a physician’s ability to care for patients over the long run. Dr. Melvin Wiederkehr, an Otolaryngologist who has been practicing for over three decades in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, New York said, “A couple of houses had downed trees and they lost power. It is a feeling that you are helpless. Our cloud EMR worked perfectly. We were open on Sunday. I saw patients the day of the hurricane. All of the prescriptions went through. I had no problem. I use the cloud for billing, as well. It worked just fine. Everything was processed. It’s over a year that I have used the system. It makes you into a better physician. It forces you to quiz patients about all of their medicines and all their medical conditions,” said Dr. Wiederkehr.
Benefits of Internet EMR Access
Mind you, not every EMR guarantees that a practice will be invincible…because not all EMRs are equal. Aaron Hartle, DNP, FNP, owner of Pace Clinic in Springville, Utah found this out before he implemented a cloud EMR. “My previous EMR was not cloud based. It was a CD download on to your computer. You couldn’t access it from any other computer. All data was stored just on that computer. As soon as your computer dies, so does all of your information. And you couldn’t access if from anywhere else, which was annoying as well. You couldn’t e-prescribe. You couldn’t network with it at all,” said Hartle.
100% Up and Running
Brad Hall is Systems Administrator for Waiting Room Solutions. His company offers EMR Cloud software services to healthcare providers. They are located in Goshen, NY. Hall explains how EMR cloud software is able to operate, without a glitch, during a weather emergency. “Our system is designed with three layers of power redundancy. A battery on each rack, a larger battery in the main data center power supply, and four train engine sized diesel power generators for when utility power is lost for any significant amount of time. The data center has fiber connections to several different geographically dispersed areas, ensuring if one connection is done, another is not,” said Hall. These are the technical benefits of a cloud based EMR.
Are You and Your Doctor Using the EMR Cloud?
Which providers are using EMRs? Among solo practitioners, 29% were adopters of EHR systems. The proportion of physicians who were adopters increased as the size of the practice increased, with 60% of physicians in two-physician practices; 62% of physicians in three-to-ten-physician practices; and 86% of physicians in practices with 11 or more physicians having adopted EHR systems.
And there are also myriad benefits for physicians’ patients. According to a survey published in October 2011 by Manhattan Research, 56 million patients said they have accessed their records through their physician’s EHR system’s online patient portal.
Peering In the Crystal Ball - Future of EMR Cloud
Where and when will another storm hit? It’s anyone’s guess. One thing is clear: Physicians who implement a cloud EMR are in a better position to weather a storm and to provide better patient care no matter what Mother Nature brings.