Brailer: Health IT vision takes shape

Now that medics treating hurricane refugees in shelters can obtain the prescription records for 80 percent of the affected area’s population, the national health information technology coordinator is looking toward the next steps in using IT as the health care system is restored.

“I want to see a digital health information infrastructure happen for the people of the Gulf Coast,” Dr. David Brailer, the health IT coordinator, said at a conference last week.

He said the devastation Hurricane Katrina wrought might have a silver lining if it becomes an opportunity to implement a regional health network for storing and exchanging records of people’s health problems and treatments.

Asked today about how such an infrastructure might be built, Brailer said it would be the task of health care providers, institutions and agencies in Louisiana and Mississippi. “We want to make sure they understand the potential of health IT,” he said.

The loss of virtually all medical records in the affected area show that “what we have been working on as a community is not an abstraction,” he told an audience at the Health IT Summit Sept. 9.

He also is calling for portable personal health records that individuals could carry so doctors would have their histories available in digital form. Brailer said he has not yet focused on specifics of making that vision a reality, but will do so later this month.

As for whether the drug information exchange, which Brailer called the rapid response drug history system, might keep operating after the shelter inhabitants have dispersed, he said, “It’s not what I would call scalable.” He said it relied on Web integration to link disparate systems.

He said a loose confederation of private and public organizations, including the Louisiana Medicaid drug benefit contractor, the Veterans Health Administration and others developed the exchange.

State officials could work with the other confederation members if they are interested in retaining the drug information exchange, he said.

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