How Emergency Response Is Innovating In The Face Of Disaster
BY GRACE MOEN FOR HEALTH 2.0
(Image: Brendan Carr speaking at the annual Health 2.0 Fall Conference)
Unprecedented natural and structural devastation from wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and drought has reportedly gone up dramatically over the past several decades (The Economist). In recent news, the Camp Fire, Woolsey Fire, and Hill Fire burning in California have decimated entire communities. In 2017 alone, the U.S. experienced 16 natural disasters that exceeded the billion-dollar mark, and so far in 2018, we’ve witnessed 11 (as of October 9) (NOAA). Last year, Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas and Louisiana to the tune of $125 billion - second only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina at $160 billion, the most destructive storm in United States history (The Weather Channel) In such dire circumstances, survival is all that matters. And according to the Economist, we’re getting better at it. For the most part.
Response teams who operate in the wake of unspeakable destruction rely on and distribute safe and expedient resources. Non-Governmental Organizations, such as the American Red Cross, paired with federal-level agencies, such as FEMA, are in place to provide overarching support and services such as food distribution, emergency shelter, evacuation, medical care, animal rescue, clothing distribution and more. But what happens when these efforts are not enough?
For medical teams on the front lines, access to patient data at the point of care is challenging enough on a normal day, let alone in an emergency. Often the infrastructure required for sharing doesn’t exist and there is simply no time to wait on a health record to cross digital boundaries. Meanwhile, response workers are collecting patient data manually and desperately seeking standardization to make sense of it all.
Brendan Carr (pictured), director of the Emergency Care Coordination Center at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, says that the HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s (ASPR) Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) has some answers. TRACIE is a national coalition of response partners organized by HHS including such organizations like the Hospital Preparedness Program. It provides capacity information between hospitals and emergency responders including number of available beds and number of nurses on staff, and then sorts the information by hospital and specialty area such as pediatric surgery or burn trauma. At the Health 2.0 Fall Conference, Brendan noted that the existing system is more focused on competition than cooperation and adds that “data is typically stale by the time it gets to decision makers,” which is why TRACIE was formed to bridge these silos.
Other TRACIE partners include regionally based technology solutions that are capable of drilling down into specific patient datasets. Audacious Inquiry, lead by Scott Afzal, is one of them. The company produces PULSE (Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies) that helps health care volunteers retrieve health information during on-the-ground, mission critical moments. What’s unique is its ability to bypass individual passwords to pull data from across health systems via a single sign-in portal. This becomes especially important when someone needs their prescription refilled, for example, and medical teams need to quickly verify medication type and dosage.
It’s the goal of the Health 2.0 community to continually push boundaries, to provide innovative, life-saving solutions to the challenges our changing world presents us. The work of both Brendan and Scott who spoke at this year’s flagship Fall Conference, during The Unacceptables session, are just two such examples of exceptional work. The Unacceptables is the brainchild of Indu Subaiya, EVP of Health 2.0 at HIMSS, who hosts the session annually in order to highlight urgent topics that aren’t typically discussed in traditional health care environments.