Take the PULSE of Your Community

Rachel Abbey | September 27, 2021

Seven years ago the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) began work on the Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE). PULSE is an effort to create national resilience by improving first responder access to patient electronic health information they need to provide services and ensure public health during disasters, including public health emergencies.

Recently, ONC launched a new, code-only technical solution called PULSE-Community Edition (PULSE Community) that builds on the original PULSE code. PULSE Community enables first responders and other response personnel (e.g., epidemiologists, emergency medical services, and health care volunteers) to securely access vital health information they need during emergencies and disasters from connected health care organizations.

PULSE Community resulted from a collaborative project between ONC, the Sequoia Project’s PULSE Advisory Committee, and Audacious Inquiry. A code-only solution (as opposed to a technology product), PULSE Community is scalable, flexible, non-proprietary and available at no cost to state, territorial, local, and tribal governments and their public and private sector partners.

PULSE Community will give state and local governments more flexibility to build upon existing health information exchange infrastructure, use existing developer resources, and create a more customized PULSE program and system. PULSE Community has the potential to create a more innovative and competitive market for other PULSE technical solutions.

The first PULSE system was developed in California and has been used as part of wildfire response efforts within the state. It has provided first responders with critical access to health information they need to provide patient care (e.g., medications that the patient is taking) through a nimble, easy to understand system.  Yet, every disaster affects each state/locality differently, and PULSE allows states and localities to customize their approach based on their needs and policies, or the health information technology (IT) they use.

As a part of ONC’s continued support for PULSE, over the next year ONC will perform an implementation assessment of PULSE Community, including an independent technical evaluation and stakeholder convening to appraise the use, costs, future needs, and sustainability of PULSE.

Organizations interested in becoming potential users are welcome to send an email to ONCPulse@hhs.gov to request access and use the code.

If you’re interested in learning more about PULSE/PULSE Community, please visit HealthIT.gov.