Despite outages from Hurricane Sandy, EHRs prove their worth

Date: 05.15.2013 | Zach Urbina">Zach Urbina

In New York City, where several hospitals were evacuated due to power outages and flooding, New York’s statewide health information exchange ran without a flicker, fulfilling the promise of health information technology brought into focus by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Gulf Coast healthcare organizations in 2005.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, some 350 miles from the south New Jersey seashore where superstorm Sandy made landfall, remote-hosted EHRs used by the 479-bed Western Pennsylvania Hospital and 397-bed Allegheny General Hospital went dark, roughly between 8 p.m. Monday and 4 a.m. Tuesday, said Dan Laurent, spokesman for their corporate parent, West Penn Allegheny Health System.

Several dozen more hospital EHRs were similarly affected as Sandy knocked out an Allscripts data center in Mountain Lakes, N.J., about 30 miles northwest of New York City; severed communications links to a second, “fail over” data center in Piscataway, N.J., about 30 miles north of Mountain Lakes; and then delayed repair crews by more than an hour, according to Laurie McGraw, chief client officer for the Chicago-based EHR developer.

McGraw said fewer than 50 clients were “severely impacted” by the outages, which began around 6 or 7 p.m. Monday and ended, for most, around 2 a.m. Tuesday. Allscripts had a “handful of clients—fewer than five,” with systems down nearly a full business day, McGraw said. The outages did not affect Allscripts’ EHR systems for office-based physicians, she said.

The EHR system flicked off at 7:30 p.m. at 290-bed Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Pa., across the Susquehanna River from Harrisburg and roughly 150 miles from the data center in Mountain Lakes. The system did not return until the following noon, said Dr. Richard Schreiber, the hospital’s chief medical informatics officer.

Schreiber said he doesn’t blame Allscripts. “They had their servers in New Jersey, and New Jersey got clobbered. Can you plan for that? Well, they tried.”

via Modern Healthcare | continue reading

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