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HHS Enters Into Agreements to Support Digital Health Recovery for the Gulf Coast


Partnerships will Accelerate Electronic Health Records in Gulf States

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced that the department has entered into two agreements today with organizations that will plan and promote the widespread use of electronic health records in the Gulf Coast regions affected by recent hurricanes.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed a large number of paper medical records maintained by physicians, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities in the Gulf Coast region. Providers and payers using electronic medical records, however, were largely able to preserve their systems and patient information, despite the devastation.

“Recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast exposed up-close the real vulnerabilities of the American health care system -- system based upon paper which in an instant was destroyed,” Secretary Leavitt said. “The effect of these hurricanes has been to demonstrate the real need for health records that are both electronic and interoperable.

As physicians, hospitals and other facilities return to operation, they will have to rebuild medical records for their patients. The agreements announced today will establish a task force of local and national experts to help area providers turn to electronic medical records as they rebuild. This task force will help to implement, support and disseminate state-of-the-art information technology that will contribute to an infrastructure that supports interoperable healthcare data exchange. The agreements are with:

The Southern Governors’ Association, to host the Gulf Coast Health Information Task Force, which will bring together local and national resources and coordinate the planning for a digital health information recovery.
The State of Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, to develop a prototype of health information sharing and electronic health record (EHR) support that can be replicated throughout the region.
“The initiatives announced today align with national efforts to advance the use of electronic health records and accelerate secure sharing of health information among providers,” said National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. David Brailer. “Making patient data accessible to authorized physicians, whether it is following a hurricane or as part of routine care, remains a challenge that must be addressed.”

The agreements announced today complement recently announced efforts in the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology pertaining to certification of electronic health records, development of interoperability standards, design of a national-scale data sharing architecture and an effort designed to address existing variations among privacy and security requirements across the country.

More information about HHS health information technology activities is available at


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