Texas looking at real-time HIE capability for natural disasters

To bolster emergency preparedness, the Lone Star State is considering a health information exchange solution enabling first responders and providers access to electronic medical records during disasters.

The Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) platform, which provides secure exchange of healthcare data across HIE and provider organizations, was developed with support from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and was previously implemented in California as a demonstration.

Last week, George Gooch, CEO of the Texas Health Services Authority, a public-private partnership to promote and coordinate the secure exchange of electronic health information in the state, testified before the Texas House Public Health Committee regarding the need for the capability.

“PULSE is on the cutting edge of technology and is a forward-looking system for addressing the critical needs of patients and the delivery of quality healthcare to all Texans during an emergency,” Gooch says. “We are confident that PULSE is the right program for Texas to fulfill its commitment to take decisive action following the horrible and historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.”

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Rescuers help a woman from a flooded retirement home into a boat after Hurricane Harvey in Spring, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. A deluge of rain and rising floodwaters left Houston immersed and helpless, crippling a global center of the oil industry and testing the economic resiliency of a state that's home to almost 1 in 12 U.S. workers. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

“We are working to have PULSE in place before the 2019 hurricane season begins,” Gooch adds. “We look forward to continuing this dialogue with our state leaders and educating the public on the many benefits of having this system available during emergencies while keeping Texas in the forefront of health information exchange.”

Last year, the Sequoia Project—a non-profit dedicated to advancing the implementation of secure, interoperable health information exchange—announced an initiative to take PULSE nationwide.

Also See: Sequoia Project starts program to share patient data during disasters

PULSE enables EMS personnel and other providers to search for patient information and to request and view clinical documents from connected HIEs and health systems.

“With a simple search, authenticated disaster response volunteers can securely access medications, allergies, diagnoses and lab results for those displaced outside their typical healthcare environment during a national disaster or other emergency,” according to the Texas Health Services Authority. “Authorized networks connected to PULSE will have already taken all necessary precautions to protect patient data under state and federal law.”

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