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Gulf states ensure patient health data available in disaster

July 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM   |   Comments

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BETHESDA, Md., July 11 (UPI) -- To ensure residents' health information is available after a hurricane, four Gulf states teamed with other states to safeguard the data, U.S. officials say.

Dr. Farzad Mostashari of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia partnered to allow for the exchange of health information among providers caring for patients displaced from home due to a disaster.

The 10-state initiative is being made possible through information technology infrastructure provided via Direct, a tool developed for the secure exchange of health information over the Internet.

"Through disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy and large tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri, in 2011 and more recently in Moore, Okla., we learned the importance of protecting patients' health records through electronic tools like health information exchanges," Mostashari, national coordinator for health IT, said in a statement. "Patients are better off when states and health information exchange organizations work together to ensure that health information can follow patients when they need it the most."

A guidebook, published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, can also help primary care clinicians connect their patients' electronic health records to a local health information exchange hub and regional health information organizations.

The guide, Regional Health e-Decisions: A Guide to Connect Health Information Exchange in Primary Care, is available at www.healthit.ahrq.gov/RegionalHealtheDecisionsGuide.pdf.

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