Blood-tracking systems fragmented

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The military is tapping into a sophisticated system known as the Joint Medical Asset Repository (JMAR) to track the inventory of its blood supplies in the wake of the worst terrorist attacks on American soil.

But civilian agencies, led by the Department of Health and Human Services, had to rely on paper, pencil, phone and fax to activate emergency plans to transfer an army of medical volunteers and supplies to New York City and Washington, D.C., after hijacked jets plunged into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Although the American Red Cross has a computer system to monitor its own supplies, there is no nationwide computerized network to keep track of more than half of the blood donations in the United States, according to Col. G. Michael Fitzpatrick, director of the Armed Services Blood Program Office based at Fort Detrick, Md.

"There is no central organization that manages or looks over the blood supplies collected across the United States," Fitzpatrick said.

The JMAR program, developed by Troy Systems Inc., keeps track of blood, medicine and other medical needs such as tissue for skin grafts. Troy Systems designed the database, and tests and secures the system. Veridian, an information assurance company, also worked on the project.

But although the system is able to give the military a snapshot of what is available, it is not yet equipped to let the military know when a shipment has arrived at its destination, according to Fitzpatrick. In the hours after the attacks, he said the military sent more than 3,000 units of blood to the scenes, as well as skin tissue to aid burn victims.

Another blood-tracking system, known as the Defense Blood Standard System, was developed by Electronic Data Systems Corp. to help military hospitals around the world keep track of their inventories using a client/server system. But local systems are not connected to ones in other locations.

At HHS, a real-time, Web-based monitoring network that was supposed to be launched last month to keep track of local blood supplies was not operating Sept. 11.

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