Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Working with colleagues from the
ASPR and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Finne created a unique program called
HHS emPOWER pulls together data, maps and online tools to show the number of Medicare beneficiaries, down to the zip code, who live independently in the community by relying on electrically powered medical equipment, such oxygen concentrators, home ventilators, or electric wheelchairs, as well as healthcare services, such as dialysis and home oxygen. More than 4 million Americans rely on such equipment and healthcare services.
“Kristen has helped our nation take a tremendous leap forward in saving the lives of some of the most medically vulnerable people during disasters,” said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “Increasingly technological advances are helping people with chronic health conditions, like end-stage renal disease or lung diseases, safely live independently. Because of her efforts, compassion and dogged commitment, communities across the country have proven tools, critical for planning and meeting their needs in large-scale emergencies.”
Disasters, particularly natural disasters, often lead to power outages or drinking water advisories. When medical equipment batteries drain and cannot be recharged due to power outages, the situations become life-threatening. Some medical equipment batteries last only a few hours. Other types of equipment, such as dialysis and feeding tubes, require purified water to function safely. Dialysis facilities, home health services, and oxygen tank services also can be affected by power outages, water advisories and impassible roads. To help, HHS emPOWER offers two tools to support emergency planning and one for emergency response; all of which include privacy protections.
The first level provides a public map, the HHS emPOWER Map, which reflects the total number of Medicare beneficiaries, down to the zip code level, who use electrically powered medical equipment. This data can be combined with a geospatial information system (GIS), real-time weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other hazard data feeds to help community users to determine the number of individuals likely to be impacted by an incoming storm or other disaster.
Local businesses, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations can use this information to plan alongside local health departments and emergency managers to address the access and functional needs of at-risk individuals during emergencies. Power companies also can use the HHS emPOWER map in power restoration plans.
The second level provides health officials with data on the monthly total of Medicare claims by each type of equipment or home health service in each zip code. This data helps public health and emergency management agencies, and healthcare providers, anticipate and plan for the access and functional needs of local residents, such as the types of accessible evacuation transportation and the appropriate size generators for shelters that would be needed.
The third level is available to health officials strictly for live-saving evacuation and search-and-rescue efforts during disasters.
“I’m honored to have been selected as a finalist in this program,” Finne said. “But I’m even more excited about the difference that the HHS emPOWER Program is making nationwide. Every community can use one or more of these tools to take action to protect health and help save the lives of their at-risk community members. The opportunity to help serve my country through this program is an incredible privilege and extremely rewarding.”
The HHS emPOWER tools have been used in more than 100 responses, including the historic 2017 and 2018 hurricanes and wild fires, severe floods in Nevada, power outages in New York, water emergencies in Louisiana, and for severe winter storms along the East Coast.
Finne also is eligible for the Service to America Medals People’s Choice Award. Beginning Friday, May 10, members of the public can
vote online for the finalist they believe has made the most significant contribution to the American people. The People’s Choice winner will be announced July 18.
The Partnership for Public Service sponsors the annual program and selected Finne as a finalist for the
2019 Service to America Medals from more than 300 candidates in five categories. Finne is one of five finalists in the Safety and Law Enforcement category. Winners will be announced in each category October 16.
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