A Medical Solution for Disaster Response in Texas

The Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) is currently working with key stakeholders exploring the development and expansion of the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) in Texas. A national initiative of The Sequoia Project, this is the same system that first responders and medical providers turned to during the 2018 California wildfires. It is also being considered by the states of Florida and North Carolina as part of their statewide emergency response during hurricanes and other natural disasters.

With a simple search on PULSE, authenticated providers can access medications, allergies, diagnoses, and lab results for those displaced outside their typical healthcare environment. The networks that authorized providers link into have already taken all necessary HIPAA precautions to protect patient data. PULSE is designed to interconnect disparate health information from multiple sources in response to a natural disaster. This allows healthcare professionals to query and view patient documents when they need it most.

PULSE limits access to the system by authenticating only authorized users. PULSE allows the viewing of patents’ critical medical records and limits access to a “view only” format.

History of PULSE

PULSE was originally conceived by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT following Hurricane Katrina. Well-meaning physicians and providers flocked to shelters to help, but there was an inability to confirm medical credentials of these volunteers or access health records of evacuees. In late 2014, ONC and ASPR received a joint HHS Ventures award, through HHS’ innovative IDEA Lab, to lay the foundation for PULSE. The award provided for a PULSE program in California through the development of a detailed use case, technical architecture, and an evaluation of policy considerations. Ultimately, PULSE can be made available in any geographic area to support healthcare professionals and first responders caring for displaced individuals, or volunteer healthcare workers who are deployed to a disaster area outside of their normal health IT environment.