The question isn’t whether or not we will have another disaster – it is just a matter of when, where and how severe it will be. The recent earthquake in Northern California, centered near Napa, serves as a reminder that we must be prepared for the unexpected no matter where we live.
Northern California’s largest quake since 1989 happened in a large state where ONC has been working for the past year to ensure health data access every day and especially during disasters. In fact, in April of this year, we issued an assessment on available opportunities to address potential disasters in California and along the Gulf Coast.
Based on those assessments and our expectations of a catastrophic event in California, ONC started working with state emergency medical services officials last year to begin connecting the state’s 35 health information exchange organizations (HIEs) and EMS organizations. This effort was launched to help ensure health data access during emergencies.
The program is working on a pilot project involving several counties in California. However, the Northern California earthquake reminds us that there is much work to do, and it must happen faster statewide and nationwide. We simply cannot make assumptions about how best to prepare for emergencies. In recognition of the importance of this initiative, the HHS Idea Lab awarded a joint ONC/ASPR proposal for the inaugural HHS Ventures Program. The team has been actively engaged in this project as well as other ways technology can improve the routine delivery of care and disaster response – all in an effort to create more resilient communities.