Researchers Pilot New Electronic System

The pilot version of the Electronic Medical Record Support for Public Health (ESP) was installed in January 2007 at Atrius Health, an alliance of five medical groups serving approximately 600,000 patients at outpatient clinical sites and hospitals.

“This is a good example of the way clinicians can provide better support for public health activities that benefit everyone,” says Richard Platt, senior author for this study and chairman of the Harvard Medical School Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The new system will save time by automatically scanning electronic medical records to identify cases and electronically report them to the health department on clinicians’ behalf. The system will also benefit health officials by providing more complete, timely, and accurate disease reports.

ESP substantially increased both the number of reported infections and the completeness of information sent to health officials. ESP is currently designed to report seven different infections: active tuberculosis, acute hepatitis A, acute hepatitis B, acute hepatitis C, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and pelvic inflammatory disease. The research team is developing methods to detect and report additional kinds of infections.

“Despite increasing use of electronic medical records, disease reporting is still frequently done by paper. ESP offers the promise of more rapid detection of threats to the public health. This would allow faster action to prevent further transmission of infection," says Alfred DeMaria, Jr, MD, Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.; Source: Harvard Medical School