Care of Oklahoma tornado victims helped by AHRQ-supported information system

Feature Story

Ferocious tornadoes struck Moore, OK, on May 20 and May 31, destroying buildings and sending many hurt victims to emergency departments (EDs). Moore Medical Center (MMC), destroyed by the May 20 tornado, quickly mobilized to treat incoming patients and transfer them and resident patients to other Norman Regional Health System (NRHS) hospitals in nearby Norman. 

"I was the hospitalist on call that night," recalls Brian Yeaman, M.D. "The HIE [health information exchange] didn't come online for me at NRHS until 9 p.m. the night of the storm. I worked traumas in the ED and admitted seven tornado victims—some crush injuries and pneumothorax patients. Something I don't want to see again. And when I got the HIE access, I used it for the second survey on the trauma patients." 

Dr. Robert Frantz (center) talks with hospital disaster team to recap operations the night of the tornado that destroyed Moore Medical Center. The second survey is done when trauma patients have been stabilized and the clinician has time to step back and assess all their current and past medical issues and manage coexisting medical conditions that could complicate their course of recovery. They need quick access to the medical records provided by the HIE to do this.

Medical record information from the NRHS HIE, initially funded by AHRQ, which detailed what medications patients were taking and what medical conditions they had, was essential in order to provide safe and appropriate care to patients. The MMC electronic health record transfer system also helped ensure accurate transfer of patients' records.

Jon White, director of AHRQ's health information technology portfolio, comments, "Both clinical teams and technology demonstrated their resiliency, as displaced patients were thoughtfully transferred and promptly reunited with their complete electronic medical records." 

As chief medical information officer for NRHS and medical director for the HIE, Yeaman was gratified to see what a difference the HIE system made in care of tornado victims. "The HIE was important for Moore citizens cared for at MMC that were at home and injured and distributed all over the metro area EDs in making sure the patients' care transition was adequately informed with their medical history from the HIE." 

Dr. Brian Yeaman, Chief Medical Information Officer for Norman Regional Health System.Fortunately for the tornado victims, Moore Medical Center is one of 26 hospitals that participate in the Oklahoma health information exchange, SMRTNET (Secure Medical Records Transfer Network), along with 99 clinics and other facilities. Initially funded by AHRQ, SMRTNET has been recognized by the National eHealth Collaborative as a national health information exchange leader, enabling the exchange of over 2.7 million patient records across 68 Oklahoma cities. SMRTNET enables medical providers to securely exchange electronic health information among hospitals, physician offices, laboratories, a university, Native American tribe, and public health, mental health, and community health centers. These electronic records are housed in a secure data warehouse and were immediately available to SMRTNET's 1,400 provider users as they worked to heal patients hurt by the Oklahoma tornadoes. 

For more information on SMRTNET, go to http://go.usa.gov/bpHQ

For more information on AHRQ's Health Information Technology Program, go to http://healthit.ahrq.gov.

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Editor's note: AHRQ just published a guidebook to help primary care clinicians connect their patients' electronic health records to a local HIE hub and regional health information organization. The guide Regional Health e-Decisions: A Guide to Connect Health Information Exchange in Primary Care is available at http://www.healthit.ahrq.gov/RegionalHealtheDecisionsGuide.PDF [Plugin Software Help].

Current as of July 2013
Internet Citation: Care of Oklahoma tornado victims helped by AHRQ-supported information system: Feature Story. July 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/13jul/0713RA1.html