Widget Offers Emergency Rooms Info About PEP

A new computer application, or widget, developed by doctors at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan will allow emergency room physicians throughout the state to access up-to-date guidelines for post-exposure prophylactic (PEP) HIV treatment. The state AIDS Institute-funded initiative is currently being distributed to more than 200 emergency departments; the program will be expanded over time.

The St. Vincent's team calls it a "one-stop shopping" approach to PEP, with the application guiding users through a screening process to determine treatment eligibility; providing specific information on the 28-day antiretroviral (ARV) regimen; and linking to consent forms in 22 languages. The widget's home page also includes a counter that tracks the number of new HIV infections in the state.

"There's a gap in knowledge in the health care sector about these topics," explained Dr. Tony Urbina, medical director of HIV/AIDS education at St. Vincent's, who developed the application with colleague Paul Galatowitsch. "You'd be surprised at how many patients come to us and say, 'I went to an emergency room, and the doctor didn't know what I was talking about, and I didn't get the drugs.'"

The widget includes information that is "reliable and updated by the State Health Department," eliminating the need for online searching on sites that may not be reliable, said Urbana.

The widget makes clear that the first dose of ARVs should be administered as soon as possible, and that patients who think they may have been exposed to the virus should be given high-priority, emergency status.