Over the recent months, climate change has escalated. Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey hit one of the largest medical centers in the world, The Texas Medical Center. Luckily, TMC and its 106,000 employees were well prepared. Just recently, medical facilities in Florida were hit hard by Hurricane Irma. These hospitals showed the true value in investing in emergency management tools such as floodgates and storm gates. The following are five exciting innovations that hospitals should be investing in. (http://www.healthcaredive.com/news/could-it-help-hospitals-prepare-for-natural-disasters/425169/)
1) Ensuring you have implemented the most up to date EHR’s
Electronic Health Records, (EHR’S) are a crucial piece of technology enabling physicians to access patient information both quickly and effectively. EHR’s record critical information about patient health. They play an important role in assisting doctors to make sound decisions about patient healthcare provision. One of the many advantages of using EHR’s is that they allow for salient information to be exchanged on a national level. During emergency situations, this EHR function is crucial as it mutually benefits both patients and medical staff. Lacking this important information only hinders effective decision making increasing patients’ anxiety. (https://mill-all.com/blog/2017/08/31/how-does-technology-help-during-natural-disasters/)
Ochsner Medical Center was able to remain fully functional throughout the floods that occurred late August in Louisiana in 2016. Ochsner was able to move some of its more critical patients to other hospitals in the system. As Ochsner CEO Eric McMillen says in the online magazine Healthcare Drive, “The continuation of patient care was seamless through Epic our electronic medical record systems, and MyOchsner our patient portal, as physicians and patients always have access to their medical records at any facility our systems.”
2) Reducing Energy needs at your hospital
In an emergency situation, to continue operating at full capacity, many facilities combine heat and power (CHP) systems (also known as cogeneration). Cogeneration produces heat and electricity using a single source of fuel such as biogas or natural gas. This results in less strain being put on the community energy infrastructure. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benn-grover/five-ways-hospitals-prepa_b_6016684.html)
In April this year, Boston Medical Center opened a new ‘Cogen’ facility. This facility,- similar in size to a tractor trailer, will not only save BMC about $1.5 million in heat and energy costs annually it will improve their resiliency in operating under the most extreme weather conditions. BMC is able to produce most of its own electricity using a “natural gas fired, 2 megawatt combined heat and power plant (CHP or Cogen)”. The Boston Medical Center has a “black start” function. So if the electric grid is neutralized, the hospital can resume its Cogen plant ensuring its impatient units are able to run on an “’island’ for months at a time”.
Senior VP for Facilities and Support Services, Bob Biggo said “We’ve learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, which devastated the health care infrastructure in their communities,”…. “Hospitals that had cogen were able to stay open and care for patients, while those without cogen were forced to evacuate. As the largest safety-net hospital and biggest trauma center in New England, we have an obligation to protect our patients in a natural disaster. Cogen gives us the ability to continue to care for the most vulnerable population in our city, even when the electric grid goes down.” (https://www.bmc.org/about-us/news/2017/04/24/boston-medical-center-unveils-15-million-cogeneration-plant-increase-energy)
3) Utilizing Predictive Models
Anticipating current and future weather conditions is becoming an increasingly important part of emergency management. As Michael Stevens points out “ …planning for moving large groups of people out of a disaster zones isn’t complete without an idea of what weather conditions the people will be moving in”. (http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/blog/let-predictive-analytics-be-your-guide-through-stormy-weather)
Predictive analytic devices or emergency management platforms use detail rich maps of a city’s infrastructure along with real-time/live weather forecasts. These ‘Big Data tools’ are able to effectively identify where and when activity is likely to occur. Using cloud-based communication, these devices provide the most recent information. This is even when communication infrastructure is weak or destroyed. These devices are also able to assess post-event reports determining the effectiveness of the response and the steps needed to improve upon it.
Another innovative tool on the market is IBM’s Deep Thunder. According to IBM, this technology is able to achieve “hyper-localized weather predictions up to three days in advance.” It is able to perform “calculations as fine as one kilometer…” (http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/what-healthcare-can-learn-big-weather)
The latest device for global public use was released recently by IBM’s consumer brand The Weather Channel in June this year. This app provides sophisticated forecasting from 800 data sources. It is able to deliver forecasts for 2.2 billion locations every 15 minutes. It also provides forecasts for a selection of extreme weather conditions including hurricanes and tropical storms. (http://www.theweathercompany.com/newsroom/2017/06/21/weather-channel-launches-advanced-global-radar-app)
4) Improving access to vital care provision using Telehealth Services
Telehealth Services are most vital for any facility to have, especially in wake of Hurricane Irma and the chaos it caused. Three major hospitals including Florida Hospital, Nemours Children’s Hospital and Orlando Health; stepped forward to make sure medical expertise was available to those that required it. These services were made easy to access for the public, either in the form of a downloadable app, a vendor, or through the internet/tablet. These services catered to both adult, children and new born populations. Conditions from upper respiratory infections to bronchitis and flu were able to be treated. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/weather/hurricane/os-hurricane-irma-free-telemedicine-20170908-story.html#)
5) Using Internet of Things Technology
The rapid progression and popularity of IoT technologies is revolutionizing healthcare. Patient Fall Sensors called patient presence sensors provide a stream of continuous data transformed into important information. Hospital administrators are given warning, even before a patient is at risk of falling. Another crucial technology is the use of temperature sensors. Under The Joint Commission, hospitals are required to monitor temperature controlled areas such as refrigerators and freezers. These sensors instantly let administrators know of any changes of temperature or humidity. This allows them to make changes that prevent monetary loss.
Another great tool is RFT tagging. Hospitals of every type are hindered in searching for wheelchair or hospital beds currently available. Using RFT tagging is equally effective for highly expensive equipment as it is for low cost items such as pillows or bed linen. RFT tagging enables hospitals to keep track of resources and locate equipment and critical times. The RFT tags are connected to the facilities Wi-Fi network allowing staff to assess “historical usage patterns so that assets can be deployed where they are typically needed most”. (https://blog.dimensiondata.com/2017/04/iot-transforming-healthcare-5-new-technologies-help-make-hospitals-human/)
In conclusion, the regularity of extreme weather conditions such as the recent hurricanes is not likely to curb any time soon. Hospitals need to be ready and have efficient emergency plans in place. Technology such as EHR’S play a vital role in transferring important patient data. Newer advanced IoT innovations mean that hospitals are now better equipped to keep track of their resources. Healthcare facilities such as the Boston Medical Center have led the way in conservation of energy, especially at times of need. They and others have learnt from past experiences that being well prepared is an absolute necessity.