Ten states are joining together to ensure that healthcare providers and individuals have access to medical records after a disaster.
Health information exchanges (HIEs) in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin are working with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology (HIT) to enable the exchange of health information related to those who are displaced.
“Through disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and large tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 and more recently in Moore, Oklahoma, we have learned the importance of protecting patients’ health records through electronic tools like [HIEs],” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for HIT. “Patients are better off when states and [HIE] organizations work together to ensure that health information can follow patients when they need it the most.”
The Southeast Regional Health IT and Health Information Exchange Collaboration (SERCH) is leading the collaboration. SERCH was funded through the ONC’s State Health Policy Consortium; of the 10 states involved in the latest effort, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are members. Additional SERCH members include Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The aforementioned states in the new collaboration each have at least one operational interstate connection and are working with other states. The 10-state initiative is being made possible through HIT infrastructure provided through Direct, a tool developed by an ONC-led collaboration to allow for the secure exchange of health information over the Internet.
In 2012, SERCH completed an analysis of barriers to HIE and issued recommendations for developing infrastructure to support disaster preparedness and response. In its final report, SERCH recommended a phased approach to use existing data sources, such as health plans and state agencies, to overcome barriers to HIE across states.
“The SERCH effort will enable healthcare providers to contact a patient’s health plans and available healthcare providers for information about the patient’s medical history when it is most needed,” said Nicole Lurie, MD, assistant secretary for preparedness and response.