Hospitals rose to the occasion to preserve EHRs in Sandy's wake

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It has been well-documented that many New York-area hospitals lost their primary and backup power sources and suffered tremendous losses during Hurricane Sandy. One good piece of news, however, is that some of them had the good fortune to not lose their electronic health records because of diligent planning.

For instance, NYU Langone Medical Center, which evacuated hundreds of patients--including infants in the neonatal intensive care unit--during the storm, is facing costs of up to $1 billion to recover from the hurricane, according to a New York Times article. The hospital lost sophisticated equipment, its library, and even its animal research experiments.

But it didn't lose its electronic health records. The EHR system was on a backup server, safe in New Jersey.

Other providers were spared the loss of their electronic patient records because they had shared their the data within their health information exchange. The State Health Information Exchange of New York (SHIN-NY) reported that the EHRs of several hospitals devastated by Sandy had been preserved because the hospitals had used the HIE as a repository

Even better, hospitals in the HIE that admitted the evacuated patients had access to those patients' records via the HIE's "virtual network", according to David Whitlinger, the executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative, which oversees SHIN-NY.

Still, some facilities were not so lucky, despite taking precautions. North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System's Staten Island University Hospital lost its data center, and thus access to its EHR system, due to flooding. The center and the EHR system now is out for an "indefinite" period, and staff has reverted to the use of paper records, according to an announcement.

In July, when the Washington, D.C. area was hit with the freak Derecho that knocked out power for a week, I wrote about the importance of including EHRs in disaster data planning and preparation, and of ensuring that the retrieval systems for those EHRs worked. 

Apparently, many of you were already on to the task. - Marla