Robert Kneschke -

Florida Launches PULSE Platform for Emergency Patient Data Exchange

Add Florida to the list of states that will have an increase in emergency patient data exchange during natural disasters and public health emergencies.

The State of Florida has launched the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) platform to boost patient data exchange during statewide public health emergencies and natural disasters.

With funding from ONC, the California Emergency Medical Services Authority hired Audacious Inquiry (Ai) to create the PULSE platform. The platform provides secure health data exchange during an emergency and it can integrate directly through the eHealth Exchange.

PULSE, a cloud-based solution, enables emergency responders to search for health information, such as medications, diagnoses, allergies, and lab results on disaster victims. The solution limits access to authorized personnel and the patient data is in a ‘view only’ format for those with access.

Florida leaders said the state integrated this platform to provide COVID-19 public health assistance and aid providers during the 2021 hurricane season. The PULSE integration will also give its users increased auditing, query, and reporting abilities during public health crises and natural disasters, state leaders said.

Florida adopted the newest PULSE platform, PULSE Enterprise, that includes a selected patient medical history list, a family reunification capability, and both auditing and reporting capabilities.

The family reunification capability, also known as its Emergency Census feature, aims to help the state’s efforts to reconnect displaced individuals during hurricanes. The feature will streamline patient data exchange with the state’s Encounter Notification Service to ensure officials can locate displaced individuals at either a shelter, hospital, or alternative care facility.

While the platform primarily assists providers with natural disasters, it also helps healthcare professionals during a pandemic, such as COVID-19. Due to the overcrowding of hospitals and patients being forced into unfamiliar health facilities, the need for a strong health data exchange is crucial.

“PULSE was created to help in the scenario where there's a disaster, be it a flood or a wildfire, an earthquake, or even now a pandemic,” Jay Nakashima, executive director of eHealth Exchange, said in a previous interview with EHRIntelligence.

“It can be integrated with the eHealth Exchange within just one or two days,” Nakashima described. “The real challenge is integrating PULSE into the state’s credentialing system. The system designates whether an individual is a licensed registered nurse or an individual is a physician. That's what takes some time.”

The Sequoia Project became involved with the project in 2018. The Sequoia Project and Ai, a health IT company that facilitates interoperability, worked together to expand the solution to other regions by connecting it to other health information exchanges.

“Then above and beyond that, it's getting the disaster preparedness professionals trained on the solution, so they can present it to the clinicians when they present in the volunteer capacity,” Nakashima continued.

For instance, a volunteer clinician can utilize the platform in a pop-up field hospital that treats COVID-19 patients. In that case, she can access patient information from local hospitals and healthcare organizations from across the country.

“It is a software solution that volunteer clinicians log into, and PULSE confirms that they are credentialed in the state, and then they have a license in good standing to treat patients,” Nakashima explained. “Then, it provides them the ability to retrieve patient histories and detailed clinical information.”

The platform works by aggregating data from health information exchanges in specific geographic regions and makes the data mobile-optimized. This makes it easier for first responders and volunteers to access health data that is often difficult to reach during emergencies such as pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, or tornadoes.

Florida followed Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) in deploying the PULSE platform. The Lone Star State launched the platform in fall 2020 after the state endured tropical storm Marco, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hurricane Laura.

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