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Ref: AMA-backed report released pushing for increased health response ability


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Public health coalition calls for disaster systems integration

BY Paul McCloskey
Published on July 18, 2007
A score of public health organizations and the American Medical Association on Wednesday threw their weight behind a series of recommendations designed to repair gaping holes in the U.S. disaster response system. 

Among its most critical "take-home messages,” the groups suggested that information technology be used to carry out the requirement that “public health and health care disaster preparedness and response systems [be] fully integrated and  interoperable at all government levels.”

"For too long, public health and medicine have responded to emergencies in separate silos," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which led the project along with the AMA. Benjamin said integration and interoperability were the keys to "a rapid and efficient disaster response."

To accomplish that, the organizations recommended that information technology systems associated with public health organizations be linked to IT systems used by health care providers. 

“Reliable, real-time networks must be available for use among hospitals, EMS agencies, public safety departments, emergency management offices and government agencies” during disasters," according to the group’s report.

Other recommendations included:
• “Acceleration of initiatives to develop, implement and foster 
widespread use of interoperable electronic health record systems to support emergency responders…”
• “Improvement of syndromic surveillance systems, disease and 
injury reporting, and electronic connectivity of public health and EMS agencies and hospitals throughout all disaster medical response phases.
• Implementation of early notification and warning systems to identify possible risks based on trends.
• Training of community responder groups to use patient tracking systems to access information on family members hit by the disaster.
The suggestions were among 53 broad recommendations that came out of the AMA/APHA Linkages Leadership Summit, which convened in 2005 and 2006 to develop a consensus agenda for disaster and terrorism response.

Members of the Summit and signers of the report included: the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Surgeons, American Dental Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Public Health Association, American Trauma Society, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Emergency Nurses Association, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of EMS Physicians, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, National Association of State EMS Officials, National Native American EMS Association, and the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association.

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