IT for Katrina response?

Am I the only one wondering if any of the thousands of workers and volunteers providing medical care to the victims of Hurricane Katrina are making use of information technology to triage patients, find hospital beds and look for patterns of disease?

Health-IT World, which I am a regular contributor to, ran a story this week about how the American Red Cross was getting ready to deploy communications trucks, generators, satellite equipment and wireless computer networks into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Among other functions, the mobile systems reportedly give the Red Cross the ability to keep electronic records of people it treats in the disaster area.

A government program called the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which was supposed to have a substantial IT component, got a lot of attention as officials gleaned lessons from the immediate response to the Sept. 11 attacks. However, I have not heard much about this program lately.

A year ago, the MMRS was transfered from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Office for Domestic Preparedness, a program supposedly part of the Department of Homeland Security but the Web page has a Justice Department address. I just found out about this Thursday night when I was checking the MMRS site.

If anyone else has any information on the use of health-related IT in the Katrina recovery, please do share. I’m even going to take the nearly unprecedented step of inviting vendors to contact me. Would it help if I bribed you with an offer of beignets in New Orleans if and when Café du Monde re-opens?

No matter, I urge each and every one of you to give what you can to help the hundreds of thousands of people (and pets, too) whose lives have been destroyed or displaced by the hurricane. Network for Good has a fairly comprehensive list of charities to choose from.