KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The May tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, killed 23 people and injured more than 350.
"We had ambulances backed up down the street. We had every room full of patients," Dr. Brian Yeaman, a hospitalist with Norman Regional Health System, said.
In addition to the injured, sick patients were transported to the hospital in Norman from its sister hospital in Moore, which was destroyed.
Those patients' medical records were readily available electronically. And after Norman Regional's internet service was restored the evening of the tornado, the hospital system also had access to electronic records from other hospitals and clinics. So Dr. Yeaman knew what chronic medical conditions his new patients had and the medicines they were taking.
"Some very valuable information on seven critically ill patients that I just personally took care of," Dr. Yeaman said.
Oklahoma has an electronic health information exchange that includes two million patients. Digital copies of their records are stored in North Kansas City at Cerner headquarters where there is a data warehouse.
Cerner brought Dr. Yeaman to Kansas City as part of its Population Health Summit.
Cerner also provides infrastructure for a newer exchange in Kansas City called LACIE. It has five metro hospital systems on board so far.
"We really need to get out to the clinics and the primary care and the specialty because that's where the majority of care occurs," Bob Robke of Cerner said.
That way, those records could be accessed quickly in an emergency no matter where you're treated.
"What I learned was the value of the health information exchange in a disaster situation," Dr. Yeaman said.
He said he has no doubt it helped save lives.