PRESERVING THE SAFETY NET
2008 Establishment of NHIT®
The National HIT Collaborative for the Underserved, Inc. (NHIT®), is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, established in 2008 with a mission to engage underserved populations in the development and use of health information technology (HIT) as a means to support and sustain health equity and economic viability based on NHIT’s five pillars: Workforce, Innovation, Policy, Research, and Community.
A Dire Public Health Challenge
More than 450,000 Americans in Puerto Rico (PR) and the US Virgin Islands (USVI), are served by 24 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and approximately 100 affiliated health clinics distributed across the islands. The FQHCs provide essential primary and community care services for the most vulnerable communities, specifically those citizens who are at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. The FQHCs combined with local clinics and Individual Practice Associations (IPAs) serve 1.7 million patients, over half the total population of PR and USVI.
After making progress towards restoring power to more than 1 million residents in PR and USVI following Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6th, PR and USVI were struck by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20th, causing severe, widespread damage to essential infrastructure. The National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT), with guidance from supporting partners, immediately launched the NHIT Care Campaign to help rebuild the HIT and health care infrastructure by providing emergency medical response, healthcare supply chain, and technology-enabled care coordination to help FQHCs and local primary care hubs for underserved communities.
PUERTO RICO – CAMPAIGN
The National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT Collaborative) has initiated the NHIT Care Campaign with guidance from PwC and supporting partners to provide emergency medical response tools, supply chain management, and technology infrastructure for Puerto Rico’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Given the significant damage to Puerto Rico’s national infrastructure, FQHCs and affiliated primary care provider networks have urgent need for power, medical supplies, communications, and telemedicine support to conduct emergency medical response and coordinate care in coordination with disaster response operations across Puerto Rico. Consequently, the NHIT Care Campaign was developed with two parallel phases:
1) Phase I: Immediate disaster response using a Puerto Rico-specific instance of the emergency response capable OpenEMR-Plus open source cloud platform (demonstrated successful response during and after Hurricane Harvey in Houston) and emergency supply chain assistance, and
2) Phase II: Rebuilding the island’s healthcare infrastructure with strategic planning, funding oversight, and supply chain management support.
Additional partners include the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association Network (PRPCAN), Amazon Web Services, Williams Medical Technology (WMT), Health Gorilla, Stephen F. Austin FQHC, and Open Health News to provide FQHCs with the technological tools and capabilities for medical care, aiding coordination with federal and territory emergency response teams, and enabling seamless interoperability of health data for medical care of refugee/migratory populations.
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