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NEW YORK, NY—An online service for authorized health professionals to gain electronic access to prescription medication records for evacuees from Hurricane Katrina was officially launched today. The information on the site was compiled and made accessible by a broad group of private companies, public agencies, and national organizations, including medical software companies; pharmacy benefit managers; chain pharmacies; local, state, and federal agencies; and a national foundation. Authorized health professionals and pharmacies will have 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.
"The information provided by KatrinaHealth.org will help deliver quality care and avoid harmful medical errors," said Dr. Carol Diamond, Managing Director of the Healthcare Program at the Markle Foundation. "Nearly 40 percent of evacuees were taking prescription medications before the storm hit, and many more need new or additional medications now," she said.
"Privacy, security and ease of use were central to the design of KatrinaHealth.org as top priorities for the entire team," said Zoë Baird, President of the Markle Foundation. "Particular care was taken to ensure that only users authorized by the American Medical Association (AMA) or an appropriate pharmacy organization would gain access to the site. Consistent with many state privacy laws, we filtered out highly sensitive personal information."
Hundreds of thousands of residents of areas hit by Hurricane Katrina have been displaced from their homes and are living in shelters or temporary housing across the United States. Neither the evacuees nor their current healthcare providers have access to their paper medical records, many of which were destroyed by the hurricane. 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.
"Many people who evacuated the Gulf Coast left without their prescriptions and many do not remember the specific medicines they were taking to manage their health problems," said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. "This secure online system will give doctors, pharmacists, and patients the critical information they need to quickly provide evacuees with needed prescriptions."
The urgent effort to make KatrinaHealth.org available to health care professionals was facilitated by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It has been supported by more than 150 organizations that have participated in the planning, testing, and launching the site. Key data and resources were contributed by the AMA, Gold Standard, the Markle Foundation, RxHub, SureScripts, and the Louisiana and Mississippi Departments of Health.
"KatrinaHealth.org demonstrates the commitment of the health information technology industry leaders to work toward a safer and more effective health care system. This is the first of many public and private sector efforts to develop new tools that will make a real difference in the lives of people," said David J. Brailer, M.D., Ph.D., and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"This tool sets a new benchmark for public and private sector collaboration around health information technology and has caused many involved in current efforts to ask how they can move faster," added Lori M. Evans, M.P.H, M.P.P, and Senior Advisor to the National Coordinator.
KatrinaHealth.org provides authorized users with access to the medication history and prescriptions for evacuees who lived in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The data or prescription information has been made available from a variety of government and commercial sources, some of which have been aggregated. Sources include 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.
"We were truly gratified to learn five days into the disaster that KatrinaHealth.org was in the works. This kind of electronic system makes so much sense," said Secretary Fred Cerise, M.D., who directs the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
"SureScripts and our pharmacy partners are proud to be part of the effort to provide potentially life-saving information in response to Hurricane Katrina. The commitment to react quickly to this urgent need, even as pharmacies throughout the affected areas handled their own responses to the disaster, was overwhelming, and it has been humbling to see the hard work and dedication of co-workers and colleagues from the public and private sectors to making what seemed impossible ... possible," said Kevin Hutchinson, President and Chief Executive Officer of SureScripts.
"The collaboration that has occurred over the past weeks has been inspiring, as public and private sector interests came together to plan, develop, and deploy a program to bring critical information to caregivers in the field," said Russ Thomas, CEO of Gold Standard. "The advancement of healthcare technology offers tremendous opportunities to speed life-saving information to the point of clinical care. KatrinaHealth.org is one example of executing on this potential."
"This natural disaster has underscored the critical need for real-time access to the most up to date medication history information at the point-of-care, regardless of where individuals are being treated," said David McLean, CEO of RxHub. "We are proud to be participating in this truly collaborative effort and commend our PBM partners as well as other private and public organizations that have made this challenge a reality. RxHub is ready to assist in future efforts of restoring the quality of life for those who have been affected by this disaster."
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. To ensure that only authorized physicians use KatrinaHealth.org, the AMA will be providing physician credentialing and authentication services. The AMA will validate the identity of health care providers, a key step in ensuring patient confidentiality and security. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) will authenticate and provide access for independent pharmacy owners. SureScripts will provide these services for chain pharmacies on behalf of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).
"Giving physicians access to prescription records will help them put together the pieces of their patients' medical histories and provide the best care possible to those affected by Hurricane Katrina," said J. Edward Hill, MD, President of the AMA. "We are fortunate that we can provide the resources needed to authenticate physicians for use of KatrinaHealth.org."
SureScripts, the largest network provider of electronic prescribing services, is committed to building relationships within the healthcare community and working collaboratively with key industry stakeholders and organizations to improve the safety, efficiency, and quality of healthcare by improving the overall prescribing process. At the core of this improvement effort is the SureScripts Electronic Prescribing Network, a healthcare infrastructure, which establishes electronic communications between pharmacists and physicians and enables the two-way electronic exchange of prescription information.
About Gold Standard
Tampa-based Gold Standard is a leading developer of drug information databases, software, and clinical information solutions. The company's products are developed by a staff with extensive experience in pharmacy practice, electronic publishing, and software development. Gold Standard's customers include hundreds of hospitals, the nation's largest retail pharmacy chains, and consultant pharmacy organizations, state and federal agencies, the country's top pharmacy and medical schools, and hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals and consumers worldwide.
About RxHub LLC
RxHub electronically routes up-to-date patient-specific medication history and pharmacy benefit information to caregivers at every point of care. Its end-to-end solution enables physicians to prescribe the most clinically appropriate and cost effective prescription to be sent electronically to the patient's pharmacy of choice. RxHub's mission is to work with all stakeholders in the prescribing industry to improve patient safety, increase workflow efficiency, and reduce the overall cost of health care delivery. RxHub was founded in 2001 by the then three largest PBMs-Advance PCS (acquired by Caremark Rx), Express Scripts, and Medco Health Solutions.
About the Office of the National Coordination for Health Information Technology (ONC)
On April 27, 2004, President Bush called for the majority of Americans to have interoperable electronic health records within 10 years and signed an Executive Order establishing the position of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The National Coordinator was charged with developing, maintaining, and overseeing a strategic plan to guide nationwide adoption of health information technology in both the public and private sectors. The ONC provides leadership for the development and nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure to improve the quality and efficiency of health care and the ability of consumers to manage their care and safety. The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology serves as the Secretary of Health and Human Services' principal advisor on the development, application, and use of health information technology; coordinates the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) health information technology programs; ensures that HHS health information technology policy and programs are coordinated with those of other relevant executive branch agencies; and to the extent permitted by law, develops, maintains, and directs the implementation of a strategic plan to guide the nationwide implementation of interoperable health information technology in both the public and private health care sectors that will reduce medical errors, improve quality, and produce greater value for health care expenditures, and coordinates outreach and consultation by the relevant executive branch agencies with the public and private sectors.
About American Medical Association (AMA)
The American Medical Association (AMA) helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. Working together, the AMA's quarter of a million physician and medical student members are playing an active role in shaping the future of medicine.