Is your entire health information technology department connected to the hospital’s emergency generator system? On the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy slamming into the Northeast, Maria Muscarella, assistant vice president of HIM and EMR at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, N.J., reflected on the challenges that awaited her staff after the storm.

Newark was battered, although not to the extent that shoreline communities were, but the city was still out of power the next day. Only the most essential personnel reported to work at the hospital; all others including HIM were asked to stay home, she told Health Data Management during a talk at the American Health Information Management Association’s conference in Atlanta.

HIM staff came back on the second day to learn that some parts of the department were not on generator power. Scanners, for instance, had no power and recent discharges could not be scanned, so staff coded from paper copies and never missed a beat, Muscarella said. That’s because components of the department’s disaster plan included practicing regularly on coding from paper so the process is not forgotten.

Full power was back by the third day and the disaster plan worked well, Muscarella said. Data is backed up daily and stored off site, so no data was lost. But the lesson was learned that departments have to check before a disaster hits to know if they are fully on the emergency power grid.

 

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