Hospital used service to update web site

When Sumter Regional Hospital in Americus, GA, was severely damaged by an F3 tornado, one thing administrators didn't have to worry about was keeping their web page updated with disaster information.

The hospital already had a contract with FastHealth Corp. in Tuscaloosa, AL, a digital disaster management company, to provide a web-based disaster response system, called FastConnect, if ever needed. Ironically, FastHealth representatives had visited Sumter officials the week before the tornado and discussed preparing for a tornado to hit the hospital. Hospital officials contacted FastHealth within a couple of hours after the tornado. Sumter Regional was unable to update the web site because they had lost their communication ability. Within 10 minutes of the call, FastHealth had information about the tornado on the web site.

"We help hospitals with logistics and communication during a disaster," says Kevin A. Foote, CEO of FastHealth. Working with the hospital's public information office, the company posted information about the tornado, along with photos, on the web site. FastHealth followed up with information for employees about what to do about coming to work.

"Some people don't have access to get to the hospital," Foote says. "They might be able to log in to get information about what they should be doing."

Also, people who visited the site were given an opportunity to donate to a disaster relief fund for the hospital, staff, and community. Charlotte Regional Medical Center in Punta Gorda, FL, used FastHealth after Hurricane Charley in 2004 and raised just over $100,000 through its web site, according to Danielle Dreher, spokeswoman.

Hospitals pay FastHealth approximately $7,000 as a setup fee, depending on their size, and they pay $750 a month to have disaster services available. The company also provides a nurse answer service.

Preparedness mandates from The Joint Commission require an emergency communications system. "There's nothing better than the Internet," Foote says. "You can access it from a laptop or with satellite communication." The web is the future tool for disaster communication, Foote says. "A disaster may have just happened, but the whole world can access and get a status update."