Non-government organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in sharing resource needs and coordinating and dispensing donated products during a disaster response. They work in unique and dynamic spaces to support the healthcare supply chain by routing urgently needed medicines and supplies to patients and sharing information across relief agencies and public sector responders.
As technology has advanced and become intertwined in the movement and dispensing of medicines, health IT partners have become integral in protecting and ensuring access to vital healthcare information. The stories below capture snapshots of the incredible efforts and programs NGOs, health IT and other healthcare partners have established during times of crisis.
An innovative partnership between Allscripts and Surescripts helped pave the way for providers and pharmacists to access needed prescription history in states impacted by the catastrophic hurricanes of 2017. After Hurricane Harvey hit land, Surescripts and Allscripts quickly mobilized to allow any pharmacist in affected regions – regardless of what EHR or clinical platforms they used - to access patient medication history data through a free cloud-based application. Access to this medication history allowed for pharmacists to quickly and accurately issue refills for patients impacted by the hurricanes, despite widespread power and systems outages across the region.
Surescripts and Allscripts took inspiration for their system from the In Case of Emergency Prescription Database (ICERx), which was created by the two companies ten years earlier in response to patient prescription access issues during Hurricane Katrina. Leveraging Allscripts’ existing ePrescribe application and Surescripts’ nationwide network that connects virtually all electronic health records (EHRs), pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and clinicians, plus an increasing number of health plans, long-term and post-acute care organizations and specialty pharmacy organizations, the two companies partnered to meet the specific challenges of Hurricane Harvey. The declaration of a state of emergency in Texas temporarily allowed pharmacists to dispense critical medications without a prescription. Combined with the information provided by the new system – secure access to patient medication history, potential clinical alerts, such as drug interactions, etc. – this authority helped secure quick, reliable access to lifesaving medicines for evacuees, while avoiding prescription errors.
To raise awareness among large and small pharmacy chains, Allscripts and Surescripts partnered with major pharmacy benefit managers and retail pharmacy chains to deliver external and internal communication to generate awareness and reinforce the availability of the solution. Allscripts and Surescripts also worked with Healthcare Ready to amplify information to a network of public partners, including Disaster Medical Assistance Team pharmacists, as well as with the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) to make the system known to pharmacists.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
Recognizing the mobile nature of society as a whole and particularly their clients, Teladoc Health utilized social and digital media to reach patients in advance of the storm to remind them of their continuous services during and after landfall. In addition, they shared key hurricane preparedness safety tips and reminded patients to plan ahead by refilling needed prescriptions.
In the wake of the unprecedented disasters that befell Texas and Florida in August and September of 2017, respectively, Teladoc coordinated with the American Red Cross to provide virtual consultations at no cost within shelters and for displaced patients elsewhere, helping connect displaced patients and families to critical health services, including prescription refills, urgent care and behavioral and mental health. During the course of the 2017 hurricanes, Teledoc’s network of 3,100 credentialed physicians provided needed care and comfort to over 1,100 new patients.
The Teladoc services helped fill a critical void in care for patients who lacked access to their pharmacies and/or physicians due to business closures, lack of transportation, service outages and/or physical constraints. These capabilities helped allow equitable patient access to care, and often times were faster and more cost-effective.
Source: Healthcare Ready interview
Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) are heavily relied upon by more than 450,000 people on the island of Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, FQHCs struggled with supply shortages, lack of electricity, and the inability to communicate and coordinate care, while many of these people were desperately in need of their services.
Recognizing this, the National Health IT Collaboration for the Underserved (NHIT) and Sprint, with support from Healthcare Ready and our partners, launched the NHIT Care Campaign to accelerate restoration of the island’s communications infrastructure. Using radios, mobile devices, and satellite phones donated from Sprint, the initiative was able to reach more than 100 clinics in severely affected regions of underserved Puerto Rico.
With this equipment, FQHCs were able to resume communications, supply chains operations, and ultimately, healthcare delivery, well before power and infrastructure services were restored on the island.
Since then, the NHIT Campaign has increased their efforts and presence in the territories to include health delivery and will continue to build a long-term communication and IT infrastructure plan in preparation for the future.
Source: hx360, HRSA, Healthcare Ready blog
In the United States alone, hospitals and other healthcare facilities generate a yearly quantity of more than two million tons of medical waste. A sizeable chunk of this waste isn’t waste at all – instead it’s medical supplies and equipment which is both unused and unexpired.
MedShare, a Georgia-based nonprofit with a global reach, tracks down these surplus supplies and redirects them to facilities both stateside and around the world which desperately need them.
This effort is two-pronged; providing lifesaving procurement of medical supplies and equipment while also reducing the annual environmental impact of the US health system.
By working with manufacturers, distributors, and health systems, MedShare is also always ready to redirect supplies during disaster time, equipping first responders with the supplies and equipment they need to save lives after a tragedy strikes. In addition to surplus deliveries, MedShare also builds health core capacities and brings equipment training to qualified medical facilities around the world.