The Importance of Healthcare Digitization in Disaster Scenarios

In the era of digitization there is an opportunity to leverage data to obtain a clear picture of a community’s healthcare needs, find gaps in services, and uncover opportunities at the neighborhood level, says Dr. Karen DeSalvo, former commissioner of health for the City of New Orleans and assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

At the time Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, DeSalvo says that the city’s IT infrastructure was relatively poor, at least in comparison to the largest cities of the U.S. After the hurricane struck, this lack of infrastructure made it very difficult for doctors, herself included, to find the most medically vulnerable people. “Doctors like me didn't know where our patients had gone, particularly those patients who were on blood thinners, or HIV meds, or cancer regimens - people who couldn't miss a dose, who couldn't miss a treatment,” she says.

Some years later, when she was New Orleans’ Health Commissioner, she worked with HHS to develop a tool called emPOWER, which is now at scale across the country. The tool mines Medicare data for a geography to identify people on Medicare who are at high risk in the event of natural disasters, power outages, or water disturbances.

To learn more about the importance of healthcare digitization, listen to Dr. DeSalvo’s chat with Patrick Pilch, Managing Director and National Leader of The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence & Innovation, in the first episode of BDO’s Healthcare Rx Podcast. 
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