Watching Hurricane Irene this morning as waves surged onto the North Carolina coast brought back memories of Hurricane Katrina and the effects on medical records that were not stored electronically. Many organizations and physicians who used traditional paper charts lost their entire set of medical records (Katrina Highlights Need for Electronic Health records). Despite the greater preparedness evident in cities such as Washington, DC and New York with Irene, human life and safety comes first. With EHR adoption still at less than 50%, medical clinics in the flood zones in lower Manhattan and other coastal areas are highly likely to be impacted by the water surge either at the front- or back-end of the storm. It is much easier to take a backup copy of one’s entire practice on a DVD or tape in the move to higher ground than to move thousands of medical charts.
For those practices that have Electronic Health Records running on a remote server (stored in a data facility) using either an ASP or Cloud service, it is even easier. Don’t worry about the medical records — they will be safe and accessible when needed. The same is true for practices with local servers on-site; however, flooding can damage these servers and recovery after a severe event such as a flood is not as easy as with a remotely hosted EHR. Even with a backup, if a new server has to be configured, it takes time and expertise to set up and is not as simple as connecting to a wireless network with a computer that accesses the EHR using a browser.
This is not a nod in the direction of remotely hosted EHRs in comparison to local server based systems. You may have had a local server system for years that has worked very effectively. But in natural disaster situations, the time to get back up and running with a remotely hosted system is faster and easier.
Something to think about as you select your EHR, particularly if the physical location of your practice or clinic is in a coastal zone.
Have you had any experience with this type of scenario? Are you a victim of Irene? What is your recommendation to others regarding EHRs?