PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new, statewide service is ensuring emergency medical workers have access to Oregon children’s medical history, so if a child can’t share this information on their own, they’ll still be safely treated. 

Health Emergency Ready Oregon, or HERO Kids registry, launched in early October. It’s a way for parents to voluntarily enter their child’s essential medical history into a database so EMS and hospital emergency departments can access it. 

Dr. Ben Hoffman is a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University and the director of the Oregon Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs

He knows how essential it is to have accurate information when a child’s experiencing an emergency. 

“Child health emergencies are stressful for everybody. So anything that we can do to make sure that the first responders have all the information, not just about the medical condition, but also the sort of individual needs of that child or young adult, the better off we’re all going to be,” he said. 

The idea for HERO Kids came from Brittany Tagliaferro-Lucas, who is a program administrator at the Oregon Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs and is now the HERO Kids program manager as well. Tagliaferro-Lucas used to work for the Oregon POLST (Portable Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Registry, which helps communicate people’s wishes as they approach the end of their lives. 

The registry is useful for people who are not capable of communicating this information on their own or people experiencing a serious progressive illness, such as advanced heart disease, advanced lung disease or cancer that has spread. 

Tagliaferro-Lucas thought this service could also be used to help share a child’s important medical information in situations where a child might be unconscious, too distressed or too young to know. It could also help children who speak a different language than emergency medical workers or who have autism. 

“It also is going to be incredibly useful for children and young adults who have developmental differences like autism because very frequently, people who are living with autism respond to stimuli and relationships differently,” Hoffman explained. 

This sort of information could be included in the registry. 

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health conducted in 2018 and 2019, one in five children in Oregon has a special health care need, including physical, mental, emotional and developmental conditions. 

Anyone age 26 or younger can enter their information into the secure registry online. Once the information is registered, emergency departments at any hospital in Oregon, or any Oregon EMS staff, will be able to call a hotline and request the information using a child’s name and date of birth. 

Hoffman assured parents that the registry is compliant with health privacy laws. Only emergency medical staff will have access to the information stored in the registry. 

Once a parent registers their child with HERO Kids, they’ll receive stickers, backpack tags and letters they can distribute to help inform EMS that their children’s information is available through the system. 

Hoffman encouraged parents to talk to their doctors about enrolling in HERO Kids, although he warned that it’s possible not all healthcare providers are familiar with the service yet since it’s so new. 

OHSU and the Oregon Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Needs is working to spread the word throughout the state. 

HERO Kids is only available in Oregon. Hoffman said the state is a trailblazer when it comes to this kind of service. He knows of a similar registry at St. Louis Children’s Hospital but said it’s only available within the hospital, not to care providers throughout the state of Missouri. 

“This is going to bolster the capacity and the efficacy of first responders to be able to ensure that they’re providing not just the right care but the right care at the right time in the most in often the most vulnerable circumstances,” Hoffman said. 

Anyone interested in registering their children can do so online. Hoffman invites anyone with questions to send an email to herokids@OHSU.edu

The registry will be available to EMS through a secure app, which will debut at the Oregon EMS Conference. The conference runs from Friday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 23 in Bend.