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February 20, 2003

Terror response center created

In an effort to meet the challenges presented by potential bioterror attacks in western Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has created a Terrorism Response and Information Center to provide information related to bioterrorism to doctors and local emergency agencies.

In addition, the center can deploy medical personnel and resources quickly in the event of an attack.

The new center is part of MedCall, developed 14 years ago as an extensive 24/7 physician tracking system that includes immediate contact information for more than 11,000 UPMC physicians. Containing more than 400 on-call schedules, MedCall is considered among the largest electronic physician tracking systems in the U.S.

MedCall was modified after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to include a database of experts in bioterrorism, infectious diseases and weapons of mass destruction. In the event of an emergency, the MedCall system can be expanded so operators can coordinate with local and federal health authorities to process requests for information quickly.

“The UPMC MedCall system will help track and triage patients safely and efficiently and provide vital information to the medical community,” said Loren Roth, senior vice president, medical services of UPMC and co-chairman of UPMC’s Bioterrorism Preparedness Group.

MedCall’s primary purpose is to have information available to a physician within a minute. The four main functions of its applications are to provide: rapid medical information to physicians and clinicians; information on patient referrals and transfers; information on occupancy rate and bed availability at all UPMC hospitals, and to deploy a disaster management team if needed.

Robert J. Schwartz, director of physician relations for UPMC and medical director of MedCall, said: “The beauty of MedCall’s service is that it eliminates the need for a physician to make 10 calls before they find the right person. This communication enhancement results in better patient care.”

Some government agencies are reviewing the MedCall system because of its potential to be a national model.

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