A group of private companies and public organizations has formed to launch KatrinaHealth.org, a Web site designed to provide authorized health professionals and pharmacies secure online access to the prescription medication records of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
Through the site, authorized doctors and pharmacists will be able to use the data to renew prescriptions, prescribe new medications and coordinate care for evacuees, said Kevin Hutchinson, president and CEO of Alexandria, Va-based SureScripts, one of the technology vendors involved in the effort. SureScripts provided the network to electronically link pharmacies and doctors.
Approximately 400,000 Katrina evacuees were taking prescription medications before the deadly hurricane hit on Aug. 29, Hutchinson said.
"Evacuees of Katrina were in about 450-plus shelters in 18 states, so we needed to get this information into the affected areas as well as to the other areas where the evacuees had been taken so they could get the [medications] that they were currently on refilled or replenished," Hutchinson said. "And the doctors needed to understand their medical histories and what their allergies are so they can write new [prescriptions] for new diagnoses they may have today."
The organizations are also eyeing Hurricane Rita as it bears down on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, and Hutchinson said a similar effort may be needed for people forced to flee that storm.
"We"re all watching Hurricane Rita right now," he said. "It"s a stronger hurricane, or was, than even Katrina, so we"re watching that very closely because we may need to add to the data for Hurricane Rita now."
The medical information for evacuees who lived in areas affected by Katrina was made available by a variety of government and commercial sources, he said. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department worked with a consortium of public agencies, physicians, retail pharmacists, insurers and the health departments of the three states hit hardest by Katrina -- Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana -- to retrieve the medical data and store it in a central location.
Key information and resources came from the American Medical Association (AMA), Gold Standard Multimedia, the Markle Foundation, RxHub, SureScripts and the health departments of those three states, he said.
Hutchinson said Albertsons, CVS, Rite Aid, Kmart, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie send medication data to SureScripts and RxHub in St. Paul, Minn., an electronic information exchange provider for doctors, pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers. The data is then compiled and sent to Gold Standard in Tampa, Fla., a developer of drug information databases, software and clinical information systems. Gold Standard provided the front end for the system, Hutchinson said.
Authorized clinicians and pharmacists using the system can view evacuees" prescription histories online, obtain patient allergy information and other alerts, view drug interaction reports, see therapeutic duplication reports and alerts, and query clinical pharmacology drug information, he said.
To ensure that only authorized physicians use KatrinaHealth.org, the AMA will provide physician credentialing and authentication services and validate the identity of health care providers.
The National Community Pharmacists Association will authenticate and provide access for independent pharmacy owners; SureScripts will provide those services for chain pharmacies on behalf of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, according to a statement.
Hutchinson said more than 25,000 chain and community pharmacies across the U.S. are involved in the effort.