Public Health: Electronic Records Support Immunization

07/22/2013
Photo: Folder

Electronic health care records (EHR) enable physicians to assist individual patients faster and more effectively;
© panthermedia.net/Pavel Ignatov

The structured, timely sharing of records enables more accurate care and more cohesive data for informing public health policy.

Using an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system to automate the immunization data shared between health providers and public health agencies enables physicians to assist individual patients faster and more effectively, while also providing more immediate, cohesive community data to the agencies tasked with promoting public health.

Those are the findings of a new study conducted by researchers from Columbia University School of Nursing and partner institutions. They also found that automated reporting reduced the lag time historically associated with data submitted on vaccinations and, in some cases, reduced the paperwork and staff time traditionally devoted to managing these required submissions. In short, a robust records automation program increased knowledge about both individuals and communities, allowing medical and public health officials at all levels to make more informed decisions.

"The efficiency offered by automation has significant implications for managing public health, whether it is by informing a local physician on the health of an individual or informing policymakers on health trends within a whole community," said CU Nursing professor Jacqueline Merrill. "For example, EHRs greatly enhance our ability to help at-risk populations for whom up-to-date immunizations are critical, such as children, immunosuppressed individuals, or the chronically ill. Before automated registries, reporting was less structured and data submittal was less consistent."

Tracking vaccinations is difficult, especially among underserved populations whose care is often managed by multiple providers. Various state and local health agencies set up immunization registries to consolidate scattered patient records and thus reduce unnecessary vaccinations; however, registries frequently report slow and incomplete data submission by health providers, who in many areas still submit information via paper files. Automated reports via EHRs provide readily available immunization histories and thus can help officials and providers determine which patients have been adequately immunized. Registries also track and provide the basis for decisions on vaccine formulations, vaccine supplies and delivery schedules.

MEDICA.de; Source: Columbia University Medical Center