Suzi Birz, principal, HiQ Analytics, LLC
Whether due to global warming, natural disaster or terrorism,
emergency preparedness has entered our collective consciousness and become a
“hot topic” among hospital administrators and state health agencies. These
events can have a significant impact on the community. The effect can pass as
the emergency passes. Or, the consequences can continue beyond the immediate
One of the problems facing emergency response personnel,
public health officials and hospital administrators is matching patient need
with organizations that have available hospital beds, staff and equipment.
EMResource, from EMSystem, LLC, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a
real-time emergency resource management system. The system is operated by the
vendor, requiring no special equipment or program installation at the
participating organization. Internet access is all that is required.
“Someone at the hospital enters the information into a Web
page and that information is then available to other organizations and emergency
response teams authorized to use the system,” explained Elaine Schweitzer,
application specialist for EMSystem.
Schweitzer described the way this system is typically used. An
authorized user at a participating hospital would access a Web site. The Web
site provides a list of hospitals in the area and reports any limitations, for
instance open, closed or divert. At a glance, professionals can match patient
need with the organization best equipped to provide the appropriate care. The
system can track inpatient beds, isolation beds, critical care capability,
psychiatric services and equipment such as vents and dialysis machines.
The system is accessed by emergency departments, emergency
medical services, ambulance companies, dispatchers and public health agencies.
It might be used on a daily basis or during emergencies, or it can be centered
on a particular event such as the Super Bowl.
“While individual organizations were the first to express
interest in EMSystem, now many state agencies are using Health Resources and
Services Administration (HRSA) emergency preparedness grants to implement
statewide systems for tracking hospital resources and aiding communication of
this information during an emergency,” Schweitzer noted.
No where has this been more acute than in New Orleans,
Louisiana, where hospitals in the post-Katrina era are often stressed beyond
their capacity. Louisiana has implemented a statewide Web site for tracking
beds, equipment and staff. Most hospitals in the state update their data and
access information on area hospitals only during an emergency.
New Orleans is using the Web site on a daily basis.
“The system has been very successful in New Orleans where the
emergency room need can exceed a hospital’s capacity to take care of the
patients” said Jimmy Guidry, M.D., Louisiana’s state health officer.
“Knowing the availability of hospital beds, equipment and
personnel during a surge of patients allows emergency response teams to get the
patients to where the beds and staff are,” he continued. “The EMSystem, already
in use in nearby states, was implemented following Katrina.”
Even before the lasting effects of recent natural disasters,
New Orleans had Mardi Gras to manage every year. This week, Guidry has been busy
with the confluence of Mardi Gras, flu season and an already overburdened health
care delivery system.
“If there is a major event, health care providers and
emergency response teams will be able to move patients around the state or to
nearby states based on the information in the system,” he added.
Making this data available is not without it challenges. The
information is not automatically loaded from a hospital system; rather it is
entered by hand by the provider, whose responsibility it is to keep the data
Schweitzer concluded that the EMSytem is statewide in a number
of states, including Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada and
For more information, please see EMSystem.
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