Medical Site Launched for Katrina Evacuees

By Stacy Lawrence
Just as Hurricane Rita threatens the Gulf Coast, a health-care site has been launched today to allow medical professionals access to the prescription medical records of some of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees now scattered throughout the nation.

Located at KatrinaHealth.org, the online site will give authorized health professionals and pharmacies access to evacuees' medication and dosage information in order to renew prescriptions, prescribe new medications, and coordinate care. This information will be accessible from anywhere in the country.

To read more about electronic health data helping Katrina victims, click here.

"Nearly 40 percent of evacuees were taking prescription medications before the storm hit, and many more need new or additional medications now," noted Dr. Carol Diamond, managing director of the health care program at the Markle Foundation.

The information on the site was compiled and made accessible by a coalition of more than 150 organizations including private electronic prescription companies like SureScripts, Gold Standard, and RxHub, public agencies such as the Office of the National Coordination for Health Information Technology, and national organizations like the Markle Foundation.

Before setting up this service, the coalition contacted state first responders and American Red Cross workers, who agreed that this service would be very helpful to those caring for Katrina evacuees.

While much of the prescription information of evacuees has been destroyed or is still inaccessible, they have been able to gather data from a variety of sources including electronic databases from commercial pharmacies, government health insurance programs such as Medicaid, and private insurers, and pharmacy benefits managers in the states affected by the storm.

The organizations involved in KatrinaHealth.org are continuing to develop new features for the site, including one that would allow patients to authorize access to sensitive personal information. But it will be difficult, if not impossible, to extend this effort to full electronic medical record format. Electronic prescription records are far more standardized than other types of electronic medical information.

Authorized clinicians and pharmacists using the system can view evacuees' prescription histories online, obtain available patient allergy information and other alerts, view drug interaction reports and alerts, see therapeutic duplication reports and alerts, and query clinical pharmacology drug information. The system will only be accessible to authorized health care professionals and pharmacists, who are providing treatment or supporting the provision of treatment to evacuees.

So far, only a handful of pilot users have access but soon the American Medical Association will be providing physicians with logins to access the site.

To read more about IT helping the Red Cross after Katrina, click here.

The site works as a common access site for a multitude of linked databases. To garner information about a given patient, the caregiver will need to know several data points about that patient.

Officials are currently in conversation as to whether this service will be extended to the likely victims of Hurricane Rita. But some assurance did come from Dr. David Brailer, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "This could be part of our routine response when we have evacuees," he said at a press conference.

This article was originally published on 09-22-2005