Anyone can use this map. My case management or utilization management staff, who are not trained in GIS mapping, can go in and pull down these queries in seconds and immediately start helping our members.
Southern California Health Plan Protects Critical Care Members during Wildfires, Power Outages
Health Plan Develops Emergency Response Web App
In the Inland Empire region of Southern California, where high winds and a dry climate lead to regular and severe wildfires, residents often deal with power outages and, in some cases, home evacuations. Evacuating in an emergency or going without electricity proves difficult for anyone, but it can be life-threatening for people with critical care needs such as ventilators and electric wheelchairs. In response, Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) developed an app that will identify vulnerable members and help ensure continuity of care during such times.
As one of the top 10 largest Medicaid health plans and the largest not-for-profit Medicare-Medicaid plan in the country, IEHP is committed to providing optimal care for its 1.3 million members. IEHP staff created an Emergency Preparedness Web Application to locate homes and facilities in areas with wildfire evacuation orders or power outages. The app, built with geographic information system (GIS) technology from Esri, manages and analyzes data from local utilities, emergency response authorities, and patient records. It makes all information accessible on an easy-to-read, interactive map.
Helping Members When They Need It Most
IEHP developed a web map to help identify their most vulnerable members and ensure their continuity of care during emergency situations.
To identify their most at-risk members, IEHP staff use the app to visualize the residential locations of those who have received durable medical equipment (DME) such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators, electric beds, and motorized wheelchairs. The need for equipment indicates that the member is severely ill or their mobility is significantly limited.
The app also allows IEHP staff to filter by specific types of equipment. For instance, staff can filter by electric bed if they want to find members who are most likely bedridden and will need assistance relocating during a fire evacuation. They can also identify members who need to be relocated using nonemergency transportation.
In the face of a power outage or evacuation order, most IEHP members with medical equipment would otherwise need to call 911 and be transported to a hospital. Although the situation is urgent, it is not an emergency, since most DME equipment includes backup batteries. IEHP's intervention through the Emergency Preparedness Web Application can also help prevent overutilization of the emergency services system including responders and hospitals in high demand during a disaster.
During the 2019 California wildfires, the Emergency Preparedness app was a tremendous aid to the health plan. Using the app to identify evacuation areas, IEHP located 14 members in a skilled nursing facility and quickly transported them to a nearby facility. This prevented members from calling 911 and occupying hospital beds unnecessarily.
The power and practicality of the app have made it a critical tool for IEHP's emergency response efforts. Dr. Karen Hansberger, IEHP chief medical officer, explained that the app is very simple to navigate.
"Anyone can use this map," said Hansberger. "My case management or utilization management staff, who are not trained in GIS mapping, can go in and pull down these queries in seconds and immediately start helping our members."
The app can be used to respond to any disaster, whether it be fire, civil unrest, or another disruptive situation that impacts members. There is also potential for the app to be utilized by other IEHP departments. For example, the communications department is now using it to identify members that may need to evacuate during a fire. Staff provide text messages with evacuation and safety tips and partner with the behavior health care management team for outbound call campaigns to connect with members in need.
IEHP's groundbreaking work on the app earned the health plan the prestigious California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) Innovation Award for 2020. This acknowledgment is a testament to IEHP's drive to continually innovate and improve member outcomes through technology like GIS.
IEHP's mission is to heal and inspire the human spirit by ensuring that members enjoy optimal and vibrant health. The Emergency Preparedness Web Application is one important way the organization can achieve this mission—by caring for members even in the most difficult circumstances.