By Matt Barry
Hurricane Sandy savaged hospitals in its path, forcing the evacuation of those that couldn’t withstand the wind and water. The storm left untouched the electronic medical records that the federal government wants at the center of the nation’s health care system.
Research by Bloomberg Government analyst Suzanne Levingston found that hospitals and doctors provided uninterrupted care to patients because they had real-time access to their data and case files through Sandy’s fury.
By contrast, Hurricane Katrina forced hospitals in New Orleans to evacuate and cut off doctors’ 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 actions encouraged the establishment of electronic medical records vendors and products. Sandy may be enough to convince even the doubters among doctors and hospitals that the systems help safeguard patients.
The rapid growth in the medical records business is likely to lead to consolidation. Sandy tested the products and vendors under extreme conditions.
Disasters are a reality and some expect them to become more frequent and severe. That 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.
Matt Barry is the Bloomberg Government health analyst team leader, with a focus on Medicare, Medicaid, public health and prevention issues. Barry has more than 20 years of health policy experience in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, non-profits, private consulting and public affairs firms. He has worked on payment and access issues under Medicare and Medicaid, tobacco control policy, rural health care, and childhood immunization policy.