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What do Wild Fires and Floods have to do with EMR?

Weeks ago, Saint Helena Hospital, part of Adventist Health in Roseville, California found themselves unable to house patients due to the wildfire going on in the area.  The patients were transferred to Sutter Health’s, Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport, California.  Sources state that Saint Helena’s EMR in use is currently Cerner, and although Sutter’s primary EMR of choice is Epic, there are a few of sites still under the Cerner EMR.  Although this would have originally resulted in some loss of critical patient data with the transfer and use of paper records, the interoperability between the two hospitals is key in physician communication.

As a precautionary measure, Ochsner hospital found themselves in a similar situation when severe flooding hit the Louisiana area affecting Ochsner Medical Center.  While patients were transferred to other Ochsner hospitals and clinics within the system, the question remains if it was possible to move patients to a closer hospital within safe range outside of the health system if it were not for the challenge of interoperability.

In the event of a mass evacuation as a result of natural disasters or states of emergency much like the recent events above, it is important to have a solid plan to properly handle medical records with the confidentiality, speed, and integrity that they deserve.  Key to that is a predetermined interoperability plan, or hospitals working on the same EMR having a file sharing plan.  This will ultimately save time and lives.  The issue is who pays for this, as there is little upside to be gained for most hospitals and plenty of expense.  The obvious choice and likely main beneficiary of a smooth running hospital transfer system during a major disaster is FEMA, or the State Emergency Preparedness equivalent.  What can be done to shake that tree?  Send your suggestions to  This could be an excellent cause for the healthcare IT industry to get behind.

Written by Michael Williams, CEO, Global Healthcare IT, Inc. (A major player in the healthcare IT staffing industry).  Mike can be reached at

This article was sourced in part from the following stories: