Continued disaster-planning drills, improved communication among federal, state and local providers, and the use of electronic health records are some best practices that could help seniors during disasters, experts told lawmakers at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the committees ranking member who called the hearing, and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the committees chairman, said caring for seniors in disasters has been an especially important issue since Hurricane Katrina, when the senior population represented the majority of storm-related deaths.
Richard Besser, director of the coordinating office for terrorism preparedness and emergency response at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the nation must ensure that healthcare is available to seniors and that they receive necessary medications, and that the use of EHRs could help. He also said there should be a focus on prevention and wellness among the elderly, as a healthy community will be more resilient. Only one-third of adults are up-to-date on preventive services, Besser said.
LuMarie Polivka-West, senior vice president with the Florida Health Care Association, echoed Bessers comments about the importance of EHRs.
Our nations lack of an interoperable electronic health information infrastructure that houses and allows access to personal health and medical information left evacuees of hurricanes Katrina and Rita without sufficient records to allow caregivers to make appropriate and safe decisions about immediate care, Polivka-West said in her testimony.