A year ago this week, a deadly tornado tore through Joplin, Mo., killing 161 people. The twister also heavily damaged St. John’s Regional Medical Center, sucking up patient files and X-rays and depositing them up to 70 miles away. Fortunately, barely three weeks earlier, St. John’s had switched from paper to electronic health records.
No one could have predicted the destruction ahead, or the benefits the electronic records would quickly provide. Even as the hospital’s 183 patients were being evacuated, St. John’s staff accessed and printed out their records from a remote site, and sent copies with patients to hospitals where they were transferred.
Within days, patient care resumed at a makeshift field hospital erected in what had been the St. John’s parking lot. Accessing the computerized records also allowed St. John’s-affiliated physicians whose clinics had been destroyed to resume care at new sites.
By Mahshid Abir, and Art Kellermann, May 23, 2012