Podcast: How an EHR Can Help Weather the Storm

Driving through pitch black darkness unable to see water on the roads, “drowned” cars scattered among the devastation, Bianca Rivera quickly made her way to University of Puerto Rico Hospital where she held a residency in the hospital’s emergency medicine program.

One day after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the Caribbean island, Dr. Rivera was activated to relieve her fellow clinicians, some whom had been working 30-hour shifts since the storm’s arrival.

The Category 4 storm knocked out power to the entire country. Subsequent heavy rains and storm surges from Maria lead to sporadic mudslides and island-wide flooding. With an entire population of 3.4 million impacted by the storm, hospitals across the country would soon be facing not just the press of a surging ocean, but torrents of scared and panicked patients.

Rivera spoke with us at our podcast booth at ACEP about her experience in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. She discusses how critical it is to have a clear state of mind to effectively manage the flow of patients through an ER. As an aid to clinicians, an EHR designed to support emergency caregivers needs to be working at 100% capacity.

Having a reliable EHR is an imperative necessity for emergency departments, but as Dr. Rivera can attest, it is even more crucial in the event of a natural disaster.

EHR Reliability in Times of Disaster

Whether it be a Category 4 hurricane, wildfires, or a 6.0 earthquake, in times of natural disasters a hospital emergency room must plan for an influx of patients. They should be confident in their electronic healthcare and patient data systems to help them focus on saving lives.

Clinicians in the ER are often working on-the-fly amid the unpredictable. A natural disaster can throw even more chaos into an environment where emergency nurses and physicians are already pressed for time. When lives are on the line in unpredictable conditions, every member of the ER—from front desk to ambulatory personnel—relies heavily on the hospital EHR for the support they need.

Rivera elaborates on the value of a how a top-performing EHR can help clinicians remain focused in the midst of a natural disaster. Hear her full story in this episode of “Health IT on the Record.”

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