Disaster Preparedness Must Include HIE

Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration Final Report

The HITECH Act outlined mandates and provided funding for a multitude of developing programs and initiatives all to increase the awareness and adoption of electronic health records. Among these programs are the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program and the State Health Policy Consortium (SHPC). The Cooperative Agreement Programs granted millions to aid States in establishing health information exchange (HIE) organizations and networks to connect their communities of providers and hospitals. The SHPC creates support for multi-state initiatives dealing with interstate health information exchange.

In November of 2010 the Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration (SERCH) project on Health Information Exchange in Disaster Preparedness and Response began to focus on the necessity and challenge of providing access to clinical information during a disaster. The State members of the Collaborative are no strangers to natural disasters in the last decade and include the Gulf States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The goal was to develop a strategic plan for exchanging health information during and post disaster.

In July the SERCH released their final report, ONC State Health Policy Consortium Project: Health Information Exchange in Disaster Preparedness and Response. The report includes:

  • an actionable plan for incorporating HIE into disaster planning
  • addresses key topic areas of legal, technical, and governance issues
  • a list of steps that States can take to align their HIE planning activities with ongoing emergency preparedness

The report concludes with five recommendations:

  1. Understand the State’s disaster response policies and align with the State agency designated for Emergency Support Function #8 (Public Health and Medical Services) before a disaster occurs.
  2. Develop standard procedures approved by relevant public and private stakeholders to share electronic health information across State lines before a disaster occurs.
  3. Consider enacting the Mutual Aid Memorandum of Understanding to establish a waiver of liability for the release of records when an emergency is declared and to default state privacy and security laws to existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules in a disaster. States should also consider using the Data Use and Reciprocal Support Agreement (DURSA) in order to address and/or expedite patient privacy, security, and health data-sharing concerns.
  4. Assess the State’s availability of public and private health information sources and the ability to electronically share the data using HIE(s) and other health data-sharing entities.
  5. Consider a phased approach to establishing interstate electronic health information-sharing capabilities.