RTI Developing Mass Casualty Tracking System

Nearly 3 months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, separated hundreds of families and left thousands of people in need of medical assistance, researchers at RTI International and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) are developing a patient tracking system they hope will better prepare emergency officials to deal with future disasters.

Under contract with AHRQ, RTI is designing a system that will track patients evacuated within a mass casualty medical treatment system in response to natural, industrial and transportation disasters, as well a terrorist attacks.

As was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, responding to a disaster requires coordination among multiple agencies and organizations spanning local, state and federal jurisdictions. An effective response system must be deployed quickly and able to operate under any circumstance.

"We're designing a system that will make locating and tracking casualties and coordinating relief efforts following a disaster easier and more efficient than ever before," said Scott F. Wetterhall, M.D., RTI's principal investigator for the project. "With this system, first responders and government agencies will be much better prepared to deal with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina."

The system, called the Integrated Patient Tracking/Locator Model, will allow officials at all levels of government to locate missing persons, provide patient care, transport patients and identify deceased persons.

Emergency response and public health officials will use the system to estimate the magnitude of the disaster, plan subsequent response activities, focus health investigations, and monitor the effectiveness of interventions such as antibiotics or vaccinations.

The tracking system will include personal identifying information, including dates of birth, age and medical status information including surgical conditions and prescribed medications. Security measures will allow only authorized personnel to have access to the information.

RTI researchers will design the system to accommodate the needs of local response agencies, federal government agencies, and disaster relief agencies.

"The nature of the disaster and the speed with which it develops determines the number of victims, their location, their health status and their needs," Wetterhall said. "With this new system we will be prepared to quickly meet whatever those needs may be when the next disaster occurs."

RTI is an independent, nonprofit research organization dedicated to conducting research and development that improves the human condition.

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