The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago today tested its disaster call center program in a drill that simulated reuniting injured people taken to an area hospital, due to a disaster, with their loved ones.
Photos are available: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25122286@N08/.
The drill tested the Red Cross Patient Connection program in conjunction with NorthShore University Health System. Patient Connection is unique to the Chicago area with plans to expand statewide this summer.
The Red Cross activates Patient Connection if 10 or more people are hospitalized during a local incident. A call center is set up by the Red Cross that helps connect families separated and injured during a disaster.
Hospitals share information such as name, age, gender and other physical characteristics of disaster victims with the Red Cross. If a match is made, family members who call the Red Cross Patient Connection line are directed to the hospital where their loved one is located. The program allows hospital staff to focus on patient care and saves time for worried family members who can make one phone call to find if their loved one was taken to a hospital.
Releasing patient information to the Red Cross is in full compliance with HIPAA. The Red Cross is the only national community organization written into HIPAA legislation. Nearly 100 hospitals in the Chicago area are participating members of this system.
The program was established in 2002 with funding from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute. It has been used to help reunite family members with hundreds of athletes hospitalized due to excessive heat during the Chicago Marathon in 2008. The program is also on standby proactively during large city events that draw crowds such as the NATO Summit last year and most recently Shamrock Shuffle in April.
Patient Connection is currently sponsored by Baxter.
Programs like Patient Connection would be useful in recent disasters like the massive tornado in Oklahoma and the bombings in Boston where hundreds of people were hospitalized. People can also register on the Red Cross Safe and Well website to let friends and family know they’re safe. The website also allows disaster victims to update their Facebook and Twitter status. People can also use the “I’m Safe” feature of the free Red Cross tornado app available through the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.