Report Outlines Approach for Secure Online Access to Patient Prescription Drug Records in Time of Disaster | Markle | Advancing America's Future
Report Outlines Approach for Secure Online Access to Patient Prescription Drug Records in Time of Disaster | Markle | Advancing America's Future

Report Outlines Approach for Secure Online Access to Patient Prescription Drug Records in Time of Disaster

Publication Date: June 13, 2006 | Back to Latest News

WASHINGTON, DC—With the nation bracing for the 2006 hurricane season, the Markle Foundation today released Lessons from KatrinaHealth, a report outlining lessons learned in posting secure, online information about prescription drug histories of Katrina evacuees in the aftermath of last summer’s disaster.

“Although it is impossible to be fully prepared for a national disaster, lessons were learned during Katrina that can help ensure that patients’ medication histories remain accessible in a private and secure manner in the wake of a disaster,” said Zoë Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, one of the organizations that led last autumn’s KatrinaHealth initiative. “It is critical that government and private sector leaders work together to put systems, technologies, and policies in place to ensure that this life-saving information is securely, privately, and readily available to patients and those who treat them anywhere in the country.”

“Many question the nation’s preparedness for the hurricane season ahead, but the report provides recommendations that should be put in place now to ensure medical records can be accessed and much-needed prescriptions provided quickly in the wake of a future disaster,” said David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA, president of Informed Decisions, a Gold Standard company.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall near New Orleans last August, a group of private and public health and information technology experts created, an online service for authorized health professionals. The web site provided access to evacuees’ medication information in order to renew prescriptions, prescribe new medications, and coordinate care.

To glean lessons from the experiences of health care professionals and patients following Hurricane Katrina, the Markle Foundation convened a group of industry and government experts and prepared the summary report, which includes such key insights as the need to:

  • Foster immediate discussions regionally and nationally among government health leaders, insurers, healthcare providers, and information technology companies to determine what, how, and when patient medical information can be shared securely and quickly in the event of a disaster.
  • Create electronic health information systems that are based on simple, open web standards, so that data can be provided in different formats from different users and still be accessible to all.
  • Agree upon a method to authenticate the identities of doctors, pharmacists, other health professionals, and patients using the web site, so that they can quickly and securely access private health information needed for their ongoing treatment.
  • Make electronic health information records accessible to nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses who will likely be working with physicians and clinics in a disaster’s aftermath, rather than just by physicians.
  • Examine federal and state public policies governing privacy and medical records-such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and existing state privacy laws-to be sure they do not hinder the delivery of medical care for displaced persons post-disaster.

“It is also critical that we educate people to take responsibility for having up-to-date information on their prescription drug history,” said Michael D. Maves, MD, chief executive officer and executive vice president of the American Medical Association. “Everyone should make sure they have this information, but it is especially critical for people with chronic and life-threatening conditions.” provided authorized users with access to the medication history of evacuees who lived in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, with data or prescription information made available from a variety of government and commercial sources. Sources included electronic databases from community pharmacies, government health insurance programs such as Medicaid, private insurers, and pharmacy benefits managers in the states most affected by the storm.

“In less than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, this information network was up and running,” said Carol Diamond, MD, MPH, managing director of the Markle Foundation and the leader of the organization’s KatrinaHealth efforts. “For many Americans, however, even a few days without much-needed, life-saving prescription medications is too long.”

“The nation’s pharmacies and partners across the health care industry believe that we must take the outstanding work done by the KatrinaHealth initiative to the next level,” said Kevin Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of SureScripts®. “Rest assured, the nation’s pharmacies are applying the lessons learned to ensure that a response is faster and more complete for patients this hurricane season and beyond. Work is well underway, but there is more to do.”

“It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of Katrina evacuees were taking prescription medications before the storm hit,” said J. P. Little, chief operating officer of RxHub. “This web site was particularly important because neither the evacuees nor their health care providers had access to their paper medical records, many of which were destroyed by the hurricane or left behind when evacuees fled their homes for safer inland locations.”

Several organizations, including the American Medical Association, Informed Decisions LLC, Markle Foundation, SureScripts, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, are being recognized today for their leadership of the KatrinaHealth program with a 2006 Pinnacle Award presented by the American Pharmacists Association Foundation (APhA). This is the ninth year for the Pinnacle Awards, which APhA established to celebrate significant contributions to the medication use process.

More than 150 organizations participated in the planning, testing, launching, and facilitation of, including the American Medical Association, Gold Standard, the Louisiana and Mississippi Departments of Health, RxHub, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SureScripts, and United States Department of Veterans Affairs. For a full copy of the Lessons from KatrinaHealth report, log onto

About American Medical Association – The American Medical Association (AMA) helps doctors help patients by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. Working together, the AMA’s quarter of a million physician and medical student members are playing an active role in shaping the future of medicine. For more information on the AMA, please visit

About Gold Standard – Tampa-based Gold Standard is a leading developer of drug information databases, software, and clinical information solutions. The company’s products are developed by a staff with extensive experience in pharmacy practice, electronic publishing, and software development. Gold Standard’s customers include hundreds of hospitals, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains, and consultant pharmacy organizations, state and federal agencies, the country’s top pharmacy and medical schools, and hundreds of thousand of healthcare professionals and consumers worldwide.

About RxHub LLC – RxHub electronically routes up-to-date patient-specific medication history and pharmacy benefit information to caregivers at every point of care. Its end-to-end solution enables physicians to prescribe the most clinically appropriate and cost effective prescription to be sent electronically to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. RxHub’s mission is to work with all stakeholders in the prescribing industry to improve patient safety, increase workflow efficiency, and reduce the overall cost of health care delivery. RxHub was founded in 2001 by the then three largest PBMs-Advance PCS (acquired by Caremark Rx), Express Scripts, and Medco Health Solutions. RxHub is based in St. Paul, MN.

About SureScripts – SureScripts®, the largest network provider of electronic prescribing services, is committed to building relationships within the health care community and working collaboratively with key industry stakeholders and organizations to improve the safety, efficiency, and quality of health care by improving the overall prescribing process. At the core of this improvement effort is the SureScripts Electronic Prescribing Network™, a health care infrastructure, which establishes electronic communications between pharmacists and physicians and enables the two-way electronic exchange of prescription information. Today, 90 percent of all pharmacies in the United States are certified on the SureScripts network.


Contributors and Participants
American College of Physicians
American Health Information Management Association
American Health Quality Association
American Medical Association
American Medical Group Association
American Medical Informatics Association
American Red Cross
Association of American Medical Colleges
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association of America
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Center for Health Transformation
Computer Sciences Corporation
eHealth Initiative
Electronic Health Records Vendors Association
Gold Standard
Harvard School of Public Health
Healthcare Information Management Systems Society
Healthworks Louisiana
Hospital Corporation of America
Louisiana Healthcare Review, Inc.
International Rescue Committee
Manatt, Phelps and Phillips
Markle Foundation
National Association of Chain Drug Stores
National Community Pharmacists Association
National Alliance for Health Information Technology (the Alliance)
National Opinion Research Center
Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Regenstrief Institute
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
State of Louisiana, Department of Health
State of Mississippi, Department of Health
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  • Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT
  • Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Federal Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Chain Pharmacies
Rite Aid
Winn Dixie

Pharmacy Benefit Managers
Express Scripts
Medco Health Solutions

Pilot Site Participants
Shelter staff at Reunion Arena and Dallas County Convention Center in Dallas, TX
Special Needs Shelters in Louisiana
Sparks Regional Medical Center
University of Mississippi Medical Center
University of South Alabama College of Medicine
University of Texas at Houston
University of Texas Southwestern