Report Offers Guidelines for Putting Prescription Drug Information Online

A year after Hurricane Katrina disrupted thousands of lives across the South, a coalition of health IT leaders has outlined how to help evacuees get necessary medications and better-informed care.

The nonprofit Markle Foundation, a well-regarded think tank that analyzes business, logistic, and policy barriers in the adoption of health IT, on June 13 released a report called “Lessons from KatrinaHealth,” which outlines lessons learned in posting secure, online information about prescription drug histories. The Foundation said that will ensure that medical staff get the information they need to care for patients and that evacuees get the prescriptions they need to function normally (or at least as close to normal as possible).

The report endorses open, Web-based systems for electronic health information systems. It recommends authorizing medical staff besides physicians (such as nurses) to retrieve and use information and agreeing on a common method to authenticate the identities of those accessing information.

Though some people with chronic conditions are supposed to take multiple medications a day, medical staff caring for evacuees after Hurricane Katrina often had no way of knowing what patients needed.

Not only did patients not get the medicines necessary in normal times, medical staff were often at a loss to know what was best for injured or disoriented people who came to them for care.

In the wake of the Katrina disaster, various health care entities cooperated to create The Web site became operational within three weeks of the disaster and provided access to evacuees’ medication information so that health workers could renew prescriptions, prescribe new medications, and coordinate care.

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