The Florida Health Information Exchange used the Encounter Notification Service (ENS®) during Hurricane Michael to assist health care providers in locating patients that were displaced due to the storm. Once an emergency was declared for Florida, we paused the routine purge of hospital encounter data flowing into ENS. This resource of encounter information was used post-storm to locate persons who may have been in a hospital or visited an Emergency Department in Florida during the emergency. The Agency for Health Care Administration worked with a large home health agency and several dialysis organizations serving the Panhandle area to help locate their patients. From the pool of patients that couldn’t be located, we were able to identify 348 admissions, discharges or emergency department events for 150 individuals and provide specific encounter information to the requestors.
The limited use of ENS as part of Hurricane Michael recovery shows great promise for emergency response in the future. Additional data sources, including long-term and post-acute care facilities, will further enhance the ability to assist vulnerable populations impacted during emergencies. The Florida Health Information Exchange is pleased to be able to provide a service that enables continuity of care for vulnerable Floridians even during a disaster.