New National Network E-mails Drug Alerts Instantly to U.S. Doctors

July 31, 2008

logo_hcnn.gifCommentary by Marilena S. Antonopoulos Pharm.D, Pharmacology Section Editor

Until recently, drugs safety alerts (aka “Dear Doctor letters”) were sent out to physicians through traditional U.S. mail, a slow and error-prone process. These alerts can be significantly delayed and may not even reach the intended recipient. In an effort to improve the speed and efficacy of the delivery of FDA mandated patient safety alerts to physicians and other healthcare providers, the Health Care Notification Network (HCNN) has announced the launching of its online service that e-mails patient safety alerts instead of sending them via U.S. mail. The HCNN may also be used to notify physicians in the event of national public health emergencies or bio-terror events.

The iHealth Alliance is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to protect the interests of patients and providers as healthcare increasingly moves online. The iHealth Alliance governs the HCNN and will ensure that the network is used only for patient safety alerts.

This new online network will ensure fast and convenient delivery of vital patient care information, and healthcare providers can have confidence that they will receive recall alerts before their patients learn about them in the press. All physicians are encouraged to register for HCNN because it will help improve patient safety and reduce liability. In 2007, the FDA guidance to manufacturers (pharmaceutical and medical device) indicated that online alert systems such as HCNN are preferred for delivering patient safety alerts to providers and are preferable in most cases to paper-based delivery.

Additional benefits of joining the HCNN network include the ability to get more information regarding specific patient safety alerts, enter into a discussion area with other providers who have received an alert, and have alerts automatically sent to other designated staff. The service is free for all physicians and healthcare providers who wish to receive these alerts electronically. Provider emails will be kept secure and not be sold or disclosed to other 3rd parties. Physicians who decide not to join the HCNN will continue to receive patient safety alerts on paper via U.S. mail. Providers can register now at