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Red Cross, DPH launch tool to reunite families in disaster

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“In the time of an emergency, it is vitally important that families can quickly locate their loved ones and find out where they are being treated,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett.

The American Red Cross of Massachusetts has joined forces with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and area hospitals to develop a groundbreaking patient tracking database called Patient Connection, which will more effectively coordinate the process of reuniting injured patients with their loved ones in the aftermath of a mass casualty incident. 

“Through the launch of this innovative new program, Patient Connection will add to our comprehensive efforts around emergency preparedness,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “The Marathon is a family-friendly event, and this system will help families know where their loved ones are at all times.”

“We’re pleased that Patient Connection will be up and running for this year’s Boston Marathon,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. “We thank the Red Cross and our area hospitals for helping families and loved ones know that this additional layer of support is available.”

Patient Connection was previously deployed by the American Red Cross during the Chicago Marathon and will be available as a pilot project for the first time in Massachusetts at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014. All hospitals in the Greater Boston and Metro West regions are participating in the pilot.

“In the time of an emergency, it is vitally important that families can quickly locate their loved ones and find out where they are being treated,” said DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett. “This new tool will minimize stress and anxiety among patients and families, and speed the process of bringing them together again as soon as possible.”

“As the nation’s preeminent disaster relief organization, the American Red Cross has always played a vital role in reconnecting loved ones who have been separated during a disaster or emergency,” said Red Cross of Massachusetts Disaster Officer Leighton Jones. “We are proud to partner with hospitals across the state and the Department of Public Health in this innovative pilot program.”

Patient Connection may be activated if 10 or more people are taken to the hospital as a result of a disaster or emergency. In the event of a mass casualty incident like last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy, hospitals located nearby the area would collect a basic set of identifying information on any incoming patients who they treat, to include the patient name, date of birth, gender, name of hospital, nationality, and a designated contact person at that hospital.

DPH will receive basic patient information provided by hospitals, and will in turn share that information with the American Red Cross. Callers would be asked identifying information to protect patient confidentiality under the same security protocols currently used by hospitals. The Red Cross does not confirm patient condition; that is the responsibility of the hospital. If Patient Connection is activated during the Marathon, family members can call 2-1-1, the Boston Mayor’s hotline, 617-635-4500 or the Red Cross at 1-800-564-1234.

“Massachusetts hospitals are continually working to provide the best possible care under all circumstances,” said Lynn Nicholas, President & CEO of the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA). “In the event of a mass casualty situation, assisting families to connect with patients as quickly as possible is part of that high quality care. MHA and our member hospitals are proud to be part of the Patient Connection program, and we commend the DPH and Red Cross for developing this important and timely effort that will serve as a model for the entire state for any future event.”

Patient Connection is being funded with support from the Patriots’ Day Fund, a charitable fund established by Fidelity Investments employees in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.