When Ellen Kramer saw the fallen telephone pole in the parking lot of St. James Primary Care in Gramercy, she knew recovery from Hurricane Ida would take a while. Kramer, who has been the clinic’s office manager for 20 years, originally thought they would be able to use their LaPlace location to see patients, but the electrical grid was down there as well.
“We were fortunate to have been given a space at St. James Parish Hospital to see patients, but we were using paper records,” said Kramer.
Three days after they reopened, both St. James clinics received MiFi hotspots that allowed them to access their electronic patient records, thanks to an emergency grant from Americares.
Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Rural Health Association worked together to use the grant funds to meet the immediate need of clinics, which was Internet access. MiFis tap into mobile phone networks and use that connection to create a mini wireless broadband cloud or hotspot.
Kramer noted that access to electronic records is not only more convenient, but it’s also important to have a patient’s full medical history.
“We were seeing an average of 60 patients a day following Hurricane Ida, including those we didn’t normally serve,” said Kramer. “Being able to look at the records and email their prescriptions to pharmacies really helped us serve all of the patients in our care.”
A total of 15 Rural Health Clinics in areas impacted by Hurricane Ida received the MiFis. Once internet access was restored to the clinics, the devices were returned to the Louisiana Rural Health Association to be available for distribution during future severe weather or internet outage events.
“We plan on purchasing our own MiFis and making them part of our emergency preparedness plan from here on out,” said Kramer, “that is our lesson from Hurricane Ida.”
Americares is a nonprofit organization focused on health and development and known for responding during times of disaster. This is not the first time Americares has worked with Well-Ahead Louisiana to provide assistance. The nonprofit provided assistance during the 2016 flood and again last year after Hurricane Laura devastated Cameron and Calcasieu parishes.
Rural Health Clinics across the state can benefit from the FREE 2021 Virtual Rural Health Workshop! Well-Ahead Louisiana and the Louisiana Rural Health Association are joining forces to host the Workshop on December 6, 7 and 8, and there will be something for all rural healthcare professionals. Hear from federal- and state-level leaders on current hot topics, find out about available funding and technical opportunities and get education that aims to improve your efficiency and effectiveness and lead your patients into a healthier future. Register now at www.ruralhealthworkshop.org!