Nearly 18 months ago, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria brought devastating loss of life and overwhelming destruction to Puerto Rico and parts of the US mainland. Accessing healthcare was nearly impossible in some areas, and widespread power outages made accessing the technology that enables it equally difficult.
Recently published in Health Affairs, Access to E-Prescriptions and Related Technologies Before and After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria shares the results of a study conducted by two Surescripts experts: Jaime Smith, Principal Researcher, and Max Sow, Vice President of Business Intelligence. They studied Surescripts’ e-prescription and medication history transaction data from August 2017 to May 2018 in order to better understand providers’ access to these technologies across the impacted zones.
Reuters also reported on the study’s insights. In E-Prescribing Bounces Back After Hurricanes Only if Infrastructure Does Too Dr. Albert Wu, an internist and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said, “I think this paper reminds us of the important relationship of our existing infrastructure to maintaining the health of our population.”
The Surescripts network can give us a look inside healthcare during a natural disaster such as a hurricane—when healthcare providers still need access to patient information in order to care for patients safely and efficiently. While many of the health information technologies used in healthcare today rely on infrastructure and electricity to function, paper records leave patients even more vulnerable in the wake of a disaster.
This study sheds light on opportunities to strengthen the healthcare ecosystem and the infrastructure that supports it. These insights also help inform the federal government’s response and recovery efforts, and point to a combination of more robust infrastructure and emergency preparedness policies with EHR-based health information technology—like e-prescribing and medication history—to more quickly restore essential medical services.