EMR proves useful for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts

In the United States, electronic medical records software has been at the forefront of digital innovation in medicine. But, while its usefulness to healthcare practitioners is becoming more clearly defined, a January 6 article published by Government Health IT has shown electronic medical software to be a viable tool for humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

The U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) Surgeon Directorate travels to partner nations to provide both general and specialized medical outreach to more than 3,000 local citizens on each mission. Prior to the organization's EMR adoption, patients were individually logged on paper, yielding enormous piles of documents in which ineligible or otherwise compromised writing often led to improper diagnosis and treatment, according to the news source.

Consequently, after identifying the benefits of using electronic documentation for American soldiers' medical records, the USARPAC undertook a humanitarian mission in Laos. The goal of this effort was to see if positive results could be duplicated through EMR deployment in an underdeveloped region where environmental instability necessitates quick and effective medical assistance.

While the article notes data collection on that scale was challenging, EMR use during the mission reportedly "yielded immeasurable benefits in terms of the analysis that it provided for both future planning and to the Laotian government." 

Electronic medical data has shown similar effectiveness domestically. After a devastating tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri in May 2011, a mobile hospital and patient tracking system was quickly deployed for patients being treated at St. John's Regional Medical Center because of the hospital's newly implemented electronic filing system, according to reports.

"If the tornado had hit a month earlier, before installing the electronic [medical] record system in Joplin, St. John's would not have been able to bring up our mobile hospital within a week's time," Mike McCreary, chief of services at Mercy Technology Services, said after the incident.

These examples illustrate the necessity for medical facility managers to integrate electronic data into their practice to rapidly address emergency situations. In addition, many experts suggest that enlisting the services of a certified consulting service to implement the software and train staff on such protocols is an effective way to get started.

Microwize Technology is a leading healthcare IT consultant offering products such as electronic medical records software and medical billing software from top providers like Allscripts and McKesson, including McKesson's Medisoft, Lytec and Practice Choice products.