Electronic Health Records Help Fight Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Study Finds

IDGA Editor

A new study conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing and partner institutions sheds more light on the positive influence of electronic health records (EHRs).

The study found that EHRs help fight vaccine preventable diseases. Using an 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.

Researchers found that EHRs can reduce the lag time with not only the paper work that is associated with data submitted on vaccines but the staff time that is devoted to managing all of the required submissions.

"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 lead researcher and CU Nursing professor Jacqueline Merrill, RN, MPH, DNSc. "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."

Related: Challenge: Utilizing Patient Information Securely and Seamlessly

The study analyzed 1.7 million records submitted by 217 primary care practices to the NY Citywide Immunizations Registry between January 2007 and June 2011 – both before and after the launch of automated reporting via an EHR. The study examined differences in records submitted by day, by lag time, and by documentation of eligibility for subsidized vaccines.

Tracking vaccinations has proved to be difficult, especially among underserved populations whose care is often managed by multiple providers. Although some state and local health agencies set up immunization registries to consolidate information, they still report slow and incomplete data submission. Automated reports via EHRs can provide readily available immunization histories and thus help officials and providers determine who has been immunized.

Related: Top 5 Reasons We Need Electronic Health Records

"Automating the process appears very successful," said Merrill. "In fact, it's so successful that we believe it would be beneficial to retrofit data from the past so it can also be included in the EHR."

Many of the issues raised in this article will be discussed at IDGA’s DoD/VA EHR Integration and Interoperability event in September. For full details, visit http://www.electronichealthrecordssummit.com/