The American Health Information Community today approved a recommendation that requires the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to "develop and prioritize" a case study focused on the use of electronic health records by emergency responders.
The study, which is due in October, would describe the role that an emergency-responder EHR plays in the overall delivery of patient care and, at a minimum, would include a prototype record that could capture patient medication and demographic data.
The AHIC recommendation dovetails with one of the findings in the Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned, which calls for the widespread use of interoperable EHR systems by emergency responders by February 2007. The report, prepared by the Department of Homeland Security, was delivered to President Bush earlier this year.
Lillee Smith Gelinas, chief nursing officer at VHA and an AHIC member, said emergency mitigation efforts immediately following Hurricane Katrina highlighted a need for such interoperable records. Several federal agencies are already working on the development of emergency-responder EHRs, Gelinas said.
"There is a need to harmonize the standards for key healthcare elements," added Gelinas, who co-chairs AHIC's EHR work group. "These harmonized standards will be central to many of the emergency-response activities, but will also play important roles in routine care and routine-care systems."
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said he supports the recommendation, adding that in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, "We all saw firsthand why this is important."
"I'm anxious to drive this forward so by the end of the year we can meet this recommendation," Leavitt said.
Additionally, David Brailer, the former national coordinator for health information IT, announced that Judith Sparrow would take over as AHIC director. Sparrow was formerly a public health analyst with HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration, office for the advancement of telehealth. She was named AHIC director 2-1/2 weeks ago.
"Judy comes to us with a substantial depth of experience in healthcare, organization and government," he said. She'll "bring a level of maturity and leadership that you will see will help us go to the next level as we begin digging into even deeper issues."