HHS offers inventory application

The Health and Human Services Department recently unveiled a Web-based application allowing state, regional, and local health care officials to inventory their medical resources and personnel in preparation of a future emergency.

The new software, called the Emergency Preparedness Resource Inventory, can be downloaded for free from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Web site: www.ahrq.gov/research/epri.

By having specific electronic information at their fingertips, emergency responders can easily and quickly locate equipment and medicine, see how much is available and contact individuals responsible for those resources. It could also help officials estimate gaps, whether it’s personnel, facilities, or equipment, for example, in their communities and guide investment decisions.

"This tool helps communities prepare for and cope with potential emergency events by helping them identify gaps in their supply inventories," AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy said in a statement. "Communities can review their resources and ensure that they are prepared for any emergency."

The agency funded Abt Associates, a Cambridge, Mass., company that conducts research and consulting concerning social policy, at a cost of $483,000 to develop the application in partnership with Geisinger Health System, a large health care provider in Pennsylvania with six hospitals in the area and about 40 outpatient clinics.

The project catalogued critical resources -- including vehicles, equipment, personnel and expertise, facilities and bed capacity, and medical supplies -- in the eight-county region and a pilot test was conducted in the summer of 2003.

According to an implementation report available on the AHRQ Web site, officials conducting the pilot – which did not involve a real life emergency or drill -- were only able to recruit 15 percent of the targeted 1,100 organizations. Reasons included lack of a mandate or incentive and competing priorities. But the pilot was nevertheless deemed a success.

"All types of organizations were able to log onto the system, bring up their organization's data entry pages, and enter data," according to the report. "Queries and email were sent between participating organizations and the system administrators. Reports were generated with the contributed data. EPRI was successfully tested, all functions worked as expected, and no redesigns were required."

Among the features available to users, location of resources can be displayed on a map and demographic data can be overlaid. Users can even click on a site, such as a hospital, and receive directions from their location to the site.

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