Facing the Next Disaster with Better Technology

Sandy's AftermathAs Hurricane Sandy made landfall, many hospitals throughout the region faced the difficult decision of whether to care in place for their patients after their generators failed or evacuate patients to other locations. Likewise, some individual households with chronically ill family members faced the same dilemma. The successful evacuation of the 700 patients from Bellevue Hospital (and similar evacuations from an additional two large hospitals) to other facilities serves as a story of disaster response success.  

One of the vital public health concerns during a disaster is to restore essential supply chains. “The most obvious and critical concern is ensuring that patients receiving life-critical medications or supplies have uninterrupted access,” say researchers from Columbia University in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

One of our BioPlus patients was caught in the center of the storm with a seemingly disrupted supply chain. Although this patient had bought a generator to keep her hepatitis C medication cool, her next shipment of medication had been waylaid due to the storm. With hepatitis C treatment, a delay isn’t just an inconvenience; it can be a death sentence. 

After exploring several options of how to get medication to our patient, we ended up chartering a private plane and courier to get the medication to our patient’s door in time for her next dose. I couldn’t be happier to report that subsequent testing since the hurricane shows that this patient remains on-track for a complete cure from her life-threatening disease. 

Disaster preparedness experts urge everyone to learn from Hurricane Sandy and get ready for future storms and disasters. In the future there will be even more patients like the BioPlus patient we helped, especially since the Affordable Care Act “…will increasingly enable the 54.4 million Americans with functional needs to remain in their homes and social environments,” points out Drs. Sophia Jan and Nicole Lune in another article in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. 

One key strategy for better disaster response in the future, contends Drs. Jan and Lune, is the continued development of health information systems.  

Here at BioPlus, we don’t only agree with this strategy, we are working hard toward that goal. We introduced TAP App – a technology tool that puts the pharmacy chart in the smart phones of providers – in 2011 and continue to improve and adapt this app. Tap App allows for instant and seamless communication between the physician and our pharmacy. Today physicians can e-prescribe as well as view patient compliance, refills, and interventions by BioPlus staff. In the near future, patients will be able to use TAP App on their smart phones, as well.  

No one looks forward to the next disaster, but here at BioPlus, we’re always developing new ways to meet the challenge and care for our patients under any and all difficult circumstances.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
BioPlus SP


Redlener I, Reilly MJ. Lessons from Sandy — Preparing health systems for future disasters. N Engl J Med 2012; 367:2269-71.
Jan S, Lurie N. Disaster resilience and people with functional needs. N Engl J Med 2012; 367:2272-3.

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