After a major disaster, individuals can be displaced not only from their homes but also from their primary care providers and local hospitals. Sometimes they leave behind needed medications, and almost always lack pertinent medical records. Patients in affected regions may be referred to alternative care locations, and individuals who sustain injuries must be triaged and treated appropriately. Providers and first responders who are treating these individuals at field locations often work with incomplete medical information.

PULSE in the News

Praying they would make it out of there.

Healthcare interoperability can save lives and relieve stress in an emergency. Selfless professionals and volunteers during the California wildfires used PULSE to get prescription refills and other critical clinical information for evacuees. Politico profiled their experiences.


The Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) is a nationwide health IT disaster response platform that can be deployed at the city, county, or state level to authenticate disaster healthcare volunteer providers. PULSE allows disaster workers to query and view patient documents from all connected healthcare organizations.


National interoperability connectivity has reached a breadth and maturity where it can be leveraged in new ways, such as disaster response. PULSE is a public-private collaborative that includes HHS, ASPR, ONC, and Audacious Inquiry and state agencies to support Americans in times of disaster.
Debbie Condrey
CIO, The Sequoia Project


Audacious Inquiry

California Emergency Medical Services Authority (CalEMSA)

California Association of Health Information Exchanges (CAHIE)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)

Dignity Health

Health and Human Services (HHS)

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)

Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC)

The Sequoia Project

Texas eHA


PULSE Demonstration


User Guide Content

Basic System Architecture
Technicals Requirements
Implementation Considerations 
Basic Requirements
PULSE Maintenance

Historical Files

Never Miss a Beat

PULSE Milestones


  • January 2018 – Sequoia became a steward for PULSE, as a public-private initiative;  Advisory Council was launched
  • March 2018 – Sequoia publishes PULSE resource center
  • July 2018 – PULSE activated for Shasta and Lake County, CA fires
  • November 2018 – PULSE deployed and used to treat individuals displaced by the fires in Butte County, CA
  • PULSE was activated in November to support disaster response for the Northern California wildfires


  • EMSA awards Ai the PULSE Operator contract
  • PULSE goes live in July
  • PULSE was activated in October to support disaster response for the Northern California wildfires
  • PULSE was activated in December to support disaster response for the Southern California wildfires. Within one week, five organizations were rapidly onboarded to eHealth Exchange and connected to PULSE (Kaiser, Dignity, Sutter, CVS, Cottage, Providence)


  • EMSA releases PULSE Development RFO
  • EMSA awards Ai the PULSE Development contract


  • The HHS Ideas Lab funds use case and technical architecture development of PULSE. Subsequently, the “Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies” report was published.


  • ONC Engages Audacious Inquiry to evaluate use of HIE infrastructure for disaster preparedness and response. From this engagement, the “HIE Services in Support of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Medical Response” report was published.


  • California Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) holds its first HIE in EMS Summit.

History of PULSE

PULSE was originally conceived by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT following Hurricane Katrina. Well-meaning physicians and providers flocked to shelters to help, but there was an inability to confirm medical credentials of these volunteers or access health records of evacuees.

In late 2014, ONC and ASPR received a joint HHS Ventures award, through HHS’ innovative IDEA Lab, to lay the foundation for PULSE. The award provided for a PULSE program in California through the development of a detailed use case, technical architecture, and an evaluation of policy considerations.

Ultimately, PULSE can be made available in any geographic area to support healthcare professionals and first responders caring for displaced individuals, or volunteer healthcare workers who are deployed to a disaster area outside of their normal health IT environment.

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