“Every system is perfectly designed to get exactly the results that it gets.”
On Sunday, March 6, an electrical transformer fire on Schilling Road left the Hunt Valley at GBMC office with smoke and carbon monoxide damage and destroyed electrical and telecommunication lines, closing it for business for the next two days. Yet, despite the closure, the practice continued to provide care for more than 70 patients.
How? The ability to access Electronic Medical Records (EMR) allowed the Hunt Valley team to notify patients of the closure and develop alternate plans. The practice’s six clinicians traveled to five sites on the GBMC campus and other satellite locations, where they were able to care for more than 60 percent of the 118 patients whose appointments were affected. Having the EMR and other IT tools in place proved absolutely invaluable in this unplanned emergency and enabled the physicians to access their patients’ records remotely.
This is a prime example of the need to design a record system that is not dependent on paper. Because of the EMR technology and a well designed system, Hunt Valley at GBMC was able to remain patient-focused and operational.
The staff of the Hunt Valley practice worked tirelessly, calling patients and making sure they could be reasonably accommodated during the days the office was closed. Additionally, GBMC’s IT professionals are also to be commended for their key role in this crisis. They got in action, finding laptops and bringing them to practices where Hunt Valley clinicians were being relocated so that there could be a seamless connection to patient electronic records. The IT team quickly got the FAX technology within EMR up and running to ensure that prescription requests, consultation reports and the like could be easily communicated. Most patients, despite having to see their physician at a new location, were still able to keep appointments with their own physician and receive care, which is a great testament to this team effort.
This is certainly an experience from which we can all learn. We in healthcare should do more when it comes to failure modes and effects analysis so that in times of crisis, we can be prepared to continue to serve our patients, as was the case in this instance.
Finally, we must keep in our thoughts the Japanese people as they continue to experience human suffering in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and now a potential nuclear catastrophe. Our prayers are with them during this time of great tragedy.
P.S. March 30 is Doctors’ Day – do you have a physician you’d like to honor or recognize for exceptional care?