Anticipating the Undesirable: Disaster Preparedness

The increase in weather changes, along with recent natural disasters (think Hurricane Katrina, Irma, and Florence, the latest one), has accentuated the importance of electronic health records (EHRs) and their accessibility.

Here is the primary importance: Whatever structures and systems are developed, they must be in place and functioning pre-disaster. Only a little over half of healthcare providers believe their organization’s plans to function within the framework of a natural disaster is broad-reaching. Climate change, and its related events such as wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, and increased rainfall (as opposed to moderate and dispersed rain storms) are only expected to increase. Did you know that 2018 is expected to be one of the hottest years ever?


A remarkable project, The Sequoia Project, is the largest Health Information Exchange (HIE) in the country and supports the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE), which was developed in anticipation of the West’s earthquakes but was launched in response to California’s wildfires.

When normal healthcare facilities may be incapacitated, PULSE allows members of emergency management organization workers to access the system for patients’ documents- while providing HIPPA security for data protection. While it may not cover everything needed, it does aim for country-wide coverage and accessibility.

“The cloud” has made this possible, allowing covered hospitals to access information

A covered hospital that does not comply with the following provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule under this declaration may have any sanctions or penalties waived:

   •    Requirements to obtain patient consent to speak with family members or friends involved in the patients care

   •    Requirement to honor requests to opt out of the facility directory

   •    Requirement to distribute a Notice of Privacy Practices

   •    Patients right to request privacy restrictions

   •    Patients right to request confidential communication

This waiver only applies to hospitals that have instituted a disaster protocol in the emergency declaration area for the identified emergency period, and hospitals can take advantage of the waiver for up to 72 hours from the time the facility implements its disaster protocol—unless the public health emergency is terminated first. 

The most recent waivers have been granted for the California 2017 wildfires and for the last six worst hurricanes.

When talking about disaster preparedness, enabling patients to access their data and to follow them in the aftermath of a disaster is essential.


As it seems that catastrophic events are becoming more frequent, the healthcare industry is becoming better prepared, learning about best practices and developing contingency plans. Having the technical infrastructure to access remote servers during a disaster is important for healthcare organizations to prevent data loss.

According to the dictionary, the definition of the word preparedness is “a state of readiness”.  


We at PCG are here to help you get ready by putting effective actions in place to improve and do better. Visit us at

Be safe out there!


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