31 Aug, 2017

How Does Technology Help During Natural Disasters?


The Millennium Alliance sends our deepest sympathies to the city of Houston, and all those who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. As we reflect on this disaster, we express our appreciation to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in order to save others.

We value the first responders and volunteers who are selflessly helping those who need it the most. Along with hospital workers, who have worked day and night to assure the citizens of Houston are taken care of medically.

Technology Meets Disaster

Due to the massive amount of flooding that occurred in Houston, it makes us wonder about how technology has played a role in helping the emergency efforts that have followed after Harvey.

Technology has brought forward new tools that make urgent communication among individuals accessible and effective, as well as assist hospitals to carry out proper and agile care for victims.

“Thanks to the opportunities presented by new technologies, we are seeing another stage of emergency management,” Noe writes. “This new stage balances the historical approach to emergency management with the potential of technology to unify resources and adapt plans in real time.” BI reports

It is important to understand the crucial role that IT management has in hospitals, such as data management, especially when a tragedy such as Hurricane Harvey occurs.

Let’s take a look at how technology has played a role in the most recent disaster. First, let’s talk about hospital care.

Hospitals Are Smarter With Technology

During natural disasters, hospitals are the most critical infrastructures, therefore, the most vulnerable. Technology has made hospitals smarter, and more resilient during these events.

“Hospitals across the country are going through a major overhaul powered by continuing advancements in technology. It’s a much-needed transformation for a dated healthcare infrastructure that has seen very little collective change over the decades.” Business Insider reports.

The large scale of damage that natural disasters create is nearly unpredictable, but hospitals can be prepared no matter what through implementing new technology and updating old structures to meet the needs of digital transformation.

Here’s how:

Electronic Health Records Help Victims

During a natural disaster, EHR’s play a vital role in helping the efforts of physicians by accessing patient information in a quick and effective way.

According to reports, Houston’s hospitals have remained resilient due to the use of EHR.

As we have discussed in a previous blog post, EHR is the future of healthcare. They store important information about patients’ health, that assists doctors to make the proper decisions while providing care. They are digital and easily accessible, which is why they played an important role in hospitals during this destructive time.

These records upheld against the floods in Houston, and hospitals were able to carry out tasks with little interruption. This is crucial during a disaster because any hiccups in the system can delay progress needed to help patients, and time is very valuable.

“I haven’t heard of any EHR breakdowns,” says DeSalvo. “The Texas health system seems thus far to be resilient to the intense and unprecedented stress of Harvey. Like many hospital systems, they responded to lessons we learned in Katrina and they learned from Alison and are weathering the acute event. This is a reminder to all in the healthcare sector to build climate resilience in mind.” Health Data Management reports.

EHR is also able to exchange information on a national scale, which ultimately benefits both physicians and patients during emergency situations because lack of patient information can hinder hospital care, creating, even more, chaos and confusion.

The fact that errors are limited through EHR is also crucial to the success of saving lives. It is proven the EHR contain fewer errors than paper records, which saves time and money for hospitals.

On top of all of these benefits, cloud-based EHR systems enable hospitals to back up data to different data systems, in case of electricity failing, or flooding becoming too severe.

Epic software is a software company that holds 54% of patient’s information throughout hospitals. This information stored through the unique software uses backup systems in different parts of the country, particularly focusing on placing information elsewhere from places that are more prone to tornados and hurricanes.

“Epic, which offers both on-premise and hosted data solutions for its customers, also purchased a Mayo Clinic data center in Rochester, Minn., used specifically as backup infrastructure for disaster recovery.” Information Management reports.

In a similar way, electronic medical records and patient portals make it easy and seamless for hospitals to transport patients to different facilities in order to receive the proper care. This was seen during Hurricane Katrina when hospitals reached maximum capacities.

“The continuation of patient care was seamless through Epic our electronic medical record system, and MyOchsner, our patient portal, as physicians and patients always have access to their medical records at any facility in our system,” Ochsner CEO Eric McMillen tells Healthcare Dive.” Reported on Healthcare Dive. 

Upgrading technology in hospitals has made it easier for physicians to operate and respond to emergencies efficiently.

Protecting Secure Data Is A Priority

Protecting data during major disasters such as Harvey is a priority and important for the citizens that are affected. According to reports, no data has been disturbed by the horrific events.

“Data center and cloud operators based in the Houston area have not reported significant damage to their infrastructure with services continuing to run at sites operated by companies including IBM, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Data Foundry, CyrusOne and Digital Realty.” Geek Wire reports.

Updating data security to successfully stand up to natural disasters is crucial, and it is proven to be effective in places like Houston.

Predictive Analytics Helps Prepare

According to Business Insider, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, big enterprises like IBM are using predictive analytics to detect storms ahead of time. This helps them determine early response plans.

Hospitals are using the same approach, by developing predictive models in order to make sure that facilities are up to date with techniques that will prepare them for emergency situations.

So, what is predictive analytics?

“Predictive analytics is a form of advanced analytics that uses both new and historical data to forecast future activity, behavior and trends. It involves applying statistical analysis techniques, analytical queries and automated machine learning algorithms to data sets to create predictive models that place a numerical value, or score, on the likelihood of a particular event happening.” Techcrunch reports.

The power of analytics can create analytic models that predict when the storm is coming, where and how severe it may be. Do you ever watch the Weather Channel that shows visual displays of where the eye of the storm will be, and when? That is made possible through machine learning.

The model uses data points and includes a model of a utility’s network which possesses a history of outages that have occurred in the area. The region’s history can help predict the density of the storm.

Machine learning categorizes events and is able to be frequently updated, providing up to date data. Utility centers can then study the data and predict a natural disaster ahead of time, therefore making proper preparations

“The model can deliver damage predictions that are 70 to 80 percent accurate 72 hours before the storm is expected. That gives utilities enough time to arrange to have enough crews to repair the downed lines after the storm has passed through. Getting the forecast in a timely manner is critical to good preparation,” Datanami reports. 

IBM has integrated this tool into its services and has even gone a step further, to include population density and soil moisture levels into reports. This gives a good indication about what trees will fall during the storm.

Digital transformation tools such as machine learning not only predicts the storm, but it works to predict the outcome and the effects.

Communication Is Made Stronger

Technology has made communicating during natural disasters stronger. Hosting social platforms through digital devices have been a valuable tool seen during Hurricane Harvey.

People were using their mobile phones and sites such as Twitter and Facebook to contact loved ones, alert police about those in need, and to offer up donations through The Red Cross.

Prior to the storm, Verizon geared up for disaster and prepared its networks to handle the mass amount of data that will be transmitted to customers.

Strong signals are important when you’re dealing with massive destruction, and Verizon understood this before the storm hit.

“Verizon also installed new network services in locations where keeping a line of communications open would be important during a storm. According to Big Red, these locations include “hospitals, government and emergency facilities, high-traffic public venues and other key locations.”  phonearena reports.

The rise of digital technology has made contacting people through social media widely used. Geo location is a crucial part of social media platforms, which provides a substantial tool for victims of natural disasters to use.

People also can simply post about their location, alerting authorities about where help is needed.

“For hurricane preparation and surviving the aftermath, there’s a whole new, real-time world of information, with 24/7 media websites including MiamiHerald.com; weather and Federal Emergency Management Agency apps; email from municipalities; and social media to spread the word”. Miami Herald reports.

What’s Next For Digital Transformation And Disasters?

Experts are working on using drones in the future to assist hurricane reliefs. These devices can be mobile in the sky, and transmit live feeds to command centers during the aftermath of the emergency.

Using this form of technology provides crews with real time information that can further help officials make accurate and efficient decisions.

Technology has advanced natural disaster efforts drastically over the years, through the healthcare industry and tech industry. The rise of tools as simple mobile technology, the media, cell phones and electronic health records help create effective lines of communication prepare us for the future.

“Today, the experts get the lights back on, the cellphones ringing and the internet connections restored with the help of COWS (Cell on Wheels), drones and other smart technology to pinpoint problems and speed recovery.” Miami Herald reports.


The Millennium Alliance is thrilled to present the second 2017 edition of Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly, put together by the industry, for the industry. Join us November 16-17, for a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations from speakers like Robin Bienfait, CEO of Emnovatecollaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions will offer industry-specific topics and trends to ensure your company sustains its competitive advantage.

From the awful tragedy that Hurricane Harvey brought to Houston, Texas, it is clear we are at a time where we can use technology to help us, such as predictive analytics and electronics used in the healthcare system. It is important as a business professional to understand the impact digital transformation has on every leading industry, and how it plays such a crucial role in moving society forward.

Experts predict that we are heading towards a “Digital Industrial Revolution” that makes the role of IT leaders and management more important than ever before. There are so many tools being integrated into different industries, such as mobile, social, and cloud, as technology is beginning to be relied on. The convergence is the foundation of the new digital world. It is important to mold our systems to be agile and ready to take on emergencies when they present themselves.

Join like minded professionals to learn about the latest digital transformation tools in order to stay ahead of the digital wave.

Limited sponsorship opportunities are available. Download the Digital Enterprise Transformation Assembly Sponsorship Prospectus for more information >>

As we move closer to 2018, prominent digital technology and business leaders from all the major private and public sectors are looking to CIOs to manage the explosion of information that has ignited digital enterprise.

Our agendas and attendee lists are for Millennium Members only. Apply today for access! Already a Millennium Member? Simply click the link and enter your password when requested.

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