Flood-Proof Health Records


Post by Christina Galanis, Binghamton, NY

The rain of Tropical Storm Irene fell heavily in the Southern Tier counties of New York State in August 2011, and for days afterward, evacuated families still waited in shelters, unable to return to their homes. Many of those displaced required medical treatment. Southern Tier Healthlink personnel joined healthcare organizations from around the region to provide emergency access to electronic health records through the STHL Health Information Exchange (HIE). At one point in the Binghamton University Events Center, as many as 1,700 sought shelter, some of those with disabilities, many elderly, and dozens with serious medical conditions. Staff from the organization helped providers with emergency access at both the Binghamton University Events Center in the town of Vestal, and Johnson City High School in Johnson.

“This is a perfect example of the benefit of electronic healthcare records,” stated Christina Galanis, STHL Executive Director. “Thanks to the great relationships we have built with UHS, Lourdes, and independent providers throughout the Southern Tier, we can provide emergency access to healthcare providers in high need, high stress situations like the flood, and make sure our citizens are given the fastest, most comprehensive care possible.”

This is not the first time health IT has played a role during local natural disasters. Back in June of 2006, when Binghamton received 10 inches of rain within 72 hours, causing the Susquehanna River to overflow, approximately 140 patients at Lourdes Memorial Hospital had to be evacuated, and the hospital was forced to close. Because of the presence of the EHR, there was no need to ensure that along with each patient evacuated went the correct hardcopies of their records.