Health Services Research & Development

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Research News


VA Electronic Health Records Sets Example During Natural Disasters

September 15, 2017


VA researcher Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH, part of HSR&D’s Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety (IQuESt), was quoted in a Politico article titled “Health IT Passes First Big Test with Hurricane Harvey.” The article cites VA’s success in retaining and rapidly accessing patient records in the face of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While other healthcare systems struggled to transfer patient medical records destroyed by wind and rain – disrupting treatment for thousands of patients – VA providers were able to access Veterans’ electronic health records much more rapidly. For example, VA restored access to records from 40,000 Veterans living in the New Orleans area within days, while it took years for the private sector to reassemble its patient records. Following Katrina, part of an economic stimulus package provided incentives to help update information technology for healthcare systems, whose electronic patient records fared much better during Hurricane Harvey.

Dr. Singh, who was working at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, TX during Hurricane Harvey, is an expert in the use of electronic patient records in healthcare, particularly as it pertains to implementation and patient safety. His research also focuses on understanding and reducing diagnostic errors in the ambulatory care setting, including those involving missed and delayed diagnosis. Watch Dr. Singh discuss patient safety and VA’s electronic health record in a brief video here.