October 4, 2005 Print this Page

Blue Cross to Provide Claims-Based Health Histories to Katrina and Rita Evacuees

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana leads the way in Electronic Health Records

In an effort to give health-care providers access to treatment information on unfamiliar patients whose records cannot be located due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana will begin providing easy and secured personal claims-based health histories and health conditions for their members.

“As the state’s largest health insurer, we felt we had the responsibility to lead the development of this crucial technology,” said Gery Barry, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. “The records provide physicians with an easy-to-understand summary of the patient’s health conditions combined with treatments associated with these conditions. The summary includes office visits, prescription drugs and tests taken.”

These records, which will be made available to Blue Cross members and their physicians, are drawn from information supplied to Blue Cross physicians, labs, pharmacies and hospitals involved in treating Blue Cross patients.

“This up-to-date picture shows how the patient’s health status is evolving,” Barry said. “In the absence of a full set of medical charts, this information will be invaluable for doctors who are seeing patients for the first time. It is most crucial for doctors seeing patients with complex health issues and chronic diseases.”

Blue Cross estimates that more than 250,000 of its members were displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many do not have access to their past medical histories, which are typically kept by their physicians. In the 15 parishes most affected by Hurricane Katrina, there are 6,440 physicians. There are 747 physicians in the parishes most affected by Hurricane Rita.

“Establishing a substitute doctor-patient relationship is never simple. But it is particularly difficult given the loss of patient medical records and the difficulty of reaching the patient’s pre-Katrina caregivers,” Barry said.

“We want to ensure that our members receive the best care and treatment possible, regardless of where they found shelter from the storms," Barry said. “The initiative to provide this type of information was under way before Katrina hit, but the hurricanes created an immediate need, and we wanted to help our customers as quickly as possible. Our first response was in making drug claim histories available. We have now expanded this effort to provide health information gleaned from physician, hospital, and lab claims. This remains a work in progress. I’m confident we’ll be able to further enhance the content and presentation of claims-based health records as we move forward.”

Customers from the affected parishes can call the Blue Cross Customer Service Call Center at 1-800-599-BLUE (2583) to request their claims-based health records. After verifying the member’s identification, Blue Cross will e-mail, fax or mail the record to the customer. Physicians can call the Blue Cross Call Center on behalf of their patients and will be given access to the records following similar verification requirements.

In the near future, customers and physicians will also be able to access the information via secure portals on the Blue Cross website, www.bcbsla.com.

While the health record is based solely on submitted claims to Blue Cross, Barry said he sees this initiative as a first step toward eventually providing complete electronic health records for all individuals. “In today’s world when a patient sees a new doctor, that doctor must call all of the patient’s other doctors to ask for the medical history of the patient,” Barry said. “Electronic records will enable physicians to tap into a wealth of treatment information as they care for patients. This will improve quality of care, reduce medical errors and eventually lower the cost of health care for us all.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is Louisiana-owned and -operated. Marking its 71st anniversary this year, the company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. It is a tax-paying mutual company, owned by its policyholders. The company is taking a leadership role in keeping health care affordable through its educational campaign, “Seeking Solutions. Together.” For more information, visit the company’s website at www.bcbsla.com.

Headquartered in Baton Rouge, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana also has district offices in Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport. The company’s subsidiaries include HMO Louisiana, Inc. and Southern National Life Insurance Company, Inc.