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  • Bob Knight

People Escape With Their Lives, But Not With Their Medication

With Hurricane Florence making landfall, hospitals are evacuating patients to other facilities and bracing for an influx of people who will sustain injuries in the storm. Shelters have filled with storm victims, including some who escaped flood waters without their medications.

It's a dangerous scenario health officials encounter time and time again, spending countless hours trying to piece together incomplete patient medical records to provide life-saving treatment and medications to patients.

In 2011, when massive flooding displaced thousands in the Binghamton, New York area. Broome County health officials were faced with triaging thousands of evacuees with incomplete medical information. They turned to the Health Information Exchange (HIE), operated by HealthlinkNY in 13 counties in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier, for critical assistance.

The HIE is secure data exchange that allows health providers (with patient consent) to securely access and share patient medical data, giving providers a clear picture of their patient's medical history.

A disaster team from HealthlinkNY arrived with laptops and worked side-by-side with teams from the health department, area hospitals, and pharmacists, to provide emergency access to patient medical records.

Health teams could access medication and allergy information to ensure diagnoses made and prescriptions written were consistent with patient treatment regiments. In one instance, a patient with diabetes could not remember their insulin dosage. HealthlinkNY had the information within seconds.

For Communities Dealing with Disasters

Since the 2011 flood, HealthlinkNY regularly drills and has a team that responds to disasters. For communities preparing for a disaster, consider partnering with a local HIE to provide complete medical histories of evacuees.

HIEs prove their value many times over during a disaster:

  • Medical records follow people wherever they go

  • HIE data saves time when lives are at stake

  • People escape with their lives, but not with their medication. With the HIE, a provider knows a patient's medications and doses

  • Records stored in the HIE allow hospitals and nursing homes to safely evacuate patients knowing all their records will be available in the HIE to other facilities

  • No break in continuity of care

HealthlinkNY is connected to the SHIN-NY, which means that patient records are available throughout New York State.

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