Doctors caring for Hurricane Katrina evacuees will soon get software that allows them to write prescriptions electronically, a move designed to help speed delivery of medication to victims in the storm-ravaged area, according to Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts LLC, a provider of clinical software for physicians.
And those victims will soon have electronic access to their medical records, thanks to San Francisco-based Medem Inc., a physician-patient communication network founded by leading U.S. medical societies. The two companies said yesterday that they have teamed up to ensure that victims of Katrina have quick access to up-to-date medical information.
Medem, which was founded by the American Medical Association and 46 other medical societies to promote patient-physician communication, announced in May that it would offer a free personal health records to all U.S. residents, and it is now working to ensure that Katrina victims are aware of the portable iHealth record program.
"You can go online at iHealthRecord.org, sign up and, once you"ve done that, put all your medical information there ... it"s available to you and anyone you authorize to access it," Tullman said.
The iHealth records are already being used to allow some individuals and care providers to rebuild medical histories and record treatments being delivered from a variety of clinicians at different locations in the Gulf Coast region. That allows the information to be available to patients through secure Internet access, anywhere in the U.S. where they may relocate. The medical data will also be available, with patients" permission, to emergency personnel and other caregivers, Tullman said.
Volunteers, including medical students from Texas A&M, have begun working with caregivers, patients and their families in the storm-ravaged area to create iHealth personal health records for families in Texas shelters, he said.
The use of iHealth records, combined with the Allscripts software, means that doctors can write an electronic prescription for a patient and then electronically update that person"s health record with information about that medicine, Tullman said.
"One of the benefits of electronic medical records is it allows you to write prescriptions electronically, check for drug interactions, then route those prescriptions to a local pharmacy -- as well as keep track of those prescriptions," he said. "In light of what is happening with Hurricane Katrina, you have thousands and thousands of displaced people who need medical treatment and who may right now be in Houston but may end up in New Jersey or Atlanta. How do you keep up with their medical records, and how do you get their prescriptions written?
"We have some of our customers who are being sent there, and they"re saying, "There"s no legal prescription pad. How do we write this? How do we track this? How do we test for drug interactions, and then how do we give the patients something so when they move to the next location a physician knows what medication they"re on and what tests they"ve had and the like?""
In addition to working with federal, state and local governments on the issue, Tullman said his company decided to offer its electronic prescribing software free to physicians already helping the victims of Katrina. The Allscripts software typically costs US$60 to $100 per month. That decision led to the move to team up with Medem, he said.
"We coordinated with Medem, which said it will provide personal health records to all of the displaced people," Tullman said. "We had a great partner in physician Nancy Dickey, president of The Texas A&M System Health Science Center. She has deployed a team of volunteers -- some physicians, some students -- who are ... creating personal health records that these individuals will now have wherever they are.They don"t have to carry anything around with them; they can just remember a password and have any physician, anywhere, access that information and add to that information."
Tullman said any physician who wants Allscripts" prescribing software can request it online from the company"s Web site, www.allscripts.com, and it will be sent to them. IHealth records are now available for all Katrina victims, their families and their clinicians at www.katrinaihealth.medem.com.