by CIO Staff

Health Organizations Jointly Develop Evacuee Database and Website

Sep 23, 20052 mins

Doctors and pharmacists across the country have a new tool to start piecing together the medication histories of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. By logging onto, clinicians can find prescription histories and information on patient allergies and drug interactions. Many of the evacuees lost their paper medical records in the storm, have no information on their medication history and no access to their doctors or pharmacies, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

“We don’t want to save someone from the storm itself to have them become ill or die in a shelter because we don’t know their medication history,” Dr. David Brailer, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, said at a news conference Thursday.

Brailer said the new website was created over the past two weeks with help from the Markle Foundation as well as key data from public and private groups including the American Medical Association (AMA), the Mississippi and Louisiana Departments of Health and healthcare IT companies Gold Standard, RxHub and SureScripts.

To protect patient privacy, the AMA, the National Community Pharmacists Association and SureScripts, which electronically links physicians and pharmacies, must first validate the identities of those trying to gain access. Healthcare workers helping to treat the evacuees can then get access to the data by logging onto the site with a username and password. Once on the site, the caregivers enter the patient’s name, date of birth, social security number and gender to access a patient’s medication history.

Working quickly to gather the data, the site builders created a network of existing databases from retail pharmacies and government health insurance programs such as Medicaid. In order to protect sensitive patient information and to comply with state laws, all medication relating to HIV, behavioral problems and chemical dependencies is filtered from the site.

With Hurricane Rita now threatening Texas and the Gulf Coast, Brailer said federal officials are in touch with state leaders to see how the tool could be useful in case of a new disaster. Otherwise, Brailer said there are no current plans to expand the site to include more detailed medical information. Still, he said, the experience shows how quickly healthcare information can be gathered electronically on a national level. “There’s a lot to be learned from this,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

–Susannah Patton