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Mercy's Digital Hospital Records Save Lives in Joplin
Date:5/17/2013

Joplin, Mo. (PRWEB) May 17, 2013

Diane Humphrey remembers the frustration two years ago as she sat with her stricken husband in the cardiac care center of the old St. John’s Regional Medical Center. His room was close to the floor’s station, where she heard nurses struggling to learn newfangled electronic records software installed by Mercy just weeks earlier. “I’d just want to say, ‘Hit that button, sweetheart,’” she recalled.

She didn’t know the digital records would save her husband’s life.

Humphrey’s is just one of a myriad of stories from May 2011 when a massive tornado ravaged Joplin, leaving a path of destruction six miles long and a mile wide, more than 160 dead and thousands injured and homeless. The hospital suffered a direct hit from the EF5 storm; its ruined hulk became an iconic image amid the devastation.

St. John’s co-workers and volunteers evacuated 183 patients. Hundreds of newly injured streamed toward the stricken hospital, where nurses and doctors treated those they could in a parking lot and arranged transportation for others to facilities nearby.

Ripped from the hospital, old X-rays and paper files floated to the ground as far away as Springfield, some 70 miles distant.

It didn’t matter. The Mercy medical records that counted were safely housed in a data center more than 200 miles away. It was technicians there – protected by thick, windowless walls in a Mission Control-like room – who were the first outside Joplin to know something was amiss at St. John’s. They say that’s when the hospital’s computers suddenly went offline.

Mercy’s data center had opened just months earlier in a blockhouse of a building in Washington, Mo., as the centerpiece of a $550 million investment Mercy made in electronic records. The early 2000s commitment put St. Louis-based Mercy and its hospitals in four states at the forefront of technical innovation. It was years before federal leg
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