An HIT Solution for Clinical Care and Disaster Planning: How One health Center in Joplin, MO Survived a Tornado and Avoided a Health Information Disaster
In 2011, Joplin, MO, was hit by a category EF-5 tornado with a wind speed of at least 200 miles per hour, which destroyed several hundreds of buildings within 15 to 20 mile radius. Major physician complex, regional community hospital and many physician and dental offices were also damaged by the tornado, which led to their shutdown. 
Access family care (AFC), a federally qualified center, provides services like comprehensive primary care, medical and dental services for adults and children along with some specialty care. This was the only center that was able to provide care during this disaster and co-ordinate with federal relief efforts. The success to this continued care during disaster was attributed to AFC’s early and effective information technology planning. As AFC planned for the transition from paper to electronic medical records (EMRs), the following were identified as key factors: 1) a mobile and accessible system that would render minimal disruption to an efficient workflow, while providing a secure operational platform. 2) to optimize efficiency, they decided to give providers to access the system from remote locations and use the EMR and other clinical application(s) from any secure computer. NeoTech, a local information technology company, hosted their EHRs both medical as well as dental. The company maintained a secure off-site data center. Thus, the ability for the center to function smoothly depends not only on its internal capacity and infrastructure, but on that of its key Health Information Technology (HIT) partner. NeoTech’s building was largely destroyed; ; luckily, their data center, withstood the storm and no data was lost despite the destruction of the premises and surrounding property. NeoTech was able to resume operations in just 12 hours. NeoTech helped the health center establish on-site intranet connectivity so that there was minimal disruption; loss of internet in the local area, however, lasted a week and prevented connecting to external resources. This proved critical for the health center to continue serving their community.
Selecting the IT partner or EHR vendor that can offer downtime plans is important to continue care during downtime. Downtime plan from the vendor should be an important criterion for the selection of EHR product.
Proper preparation for a long –term downtime in Information Technology is key to providing continued safe care. In order to do so, it is highly important to have data secure at off-site locations.
- Shin, 2012. An HIT Solution for Clinical Care and Disaster Planning: How One health Center in Joplin, MO Survived a Tornado and Avoided a Health Information Disaster. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23569622