The Case for Telehealth Reform

By the EHR Association

The expanded access to telehealth enabled under the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) has been transformational and served to engrain virtual care into the nation’s healthcare landscape – improving access and outcomes. Healthcare providers have risen to the challenge of meeting patients’ expectations for telehealth services by making substantial investments into new technologies that have so far carried them through the pandemic. 

However, despite ongoing surges and the emergence of new variants, many of the telehealth flexibilities that have helped dramatically improve patient access to care will expire later this year unless the Biden Administration extends the COVID-19 PHE  – which must be renewed every 90 days. Should that happen, the impact to public health programs and private healthcare delivery alike will be significant. 

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare.

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare. Healthcare organizations must decide if they can risk dedicating finite financial resources to maintaining the technological and clinical infrastructure required to continue offering telehealth programs at the level to which patients are now accustomed, when the possibility exists that Congress may ultimately decide against making the changes allowed under the PHE permanent.

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Five Ways EHRs Are Helping CDC Track COVID-19 Vaccinations

By the EHR Association COVID-19 Task Force

In December, two COVID-19 vaccines received authorization from the FDA, and the federal government began distribution to the states almost immediately. Millions of Americans have already received their first dose – many their second – and millions more will be vaccinated in the coming weeks and months. While social distancing, frequent hand washing, and face masks remain vital tools in limiting spread of coronavirus, we can increasingly see our way to a full return to hugs and handshakes, in-person meetings, travel, pubs and parties, concerts and classrooms.

As we anxiously await a return to our old way of life, public health experts, policymakers, and the public are watching the CDC vaccine data tracker, updated every evening with the latest numbers, including: 

  • How many vaccine doses have been distributed to-date? 
  • How many vaccines have been administered?
  • How many people have received their first dose? 
  • How many people have gotten a second dose?
  • Which vaccine is being administered?

But how does the CDC get all that data? The answer varies, but it’s made possible by technology, and electronic health records (EHRs) have been a key player from the beginning. 

Here are five ways that EHRs and the EHR Association are playing important roles in vaccine administration and data collection in the United States.

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EHRA and Public Health: Two-Way Communication in the Age of COVID-19

How EHRA’s COVID-19 Task Force is Supporting Providers and Public Health Agencies During the Pandemic

By Hans Buitendijk and David Bucciferro
EHR Association Chair and Vice Chair

Every organization in healthcare and public health has been prioritizing COVID-19 response, and the EHR Association is no exception. Our COVID-19 Task Force, created in the spring, continues to demonstrate its value to EHRA members and our provider and public health partners. From data collection to preparing for vaccines, EHRs play an important role in America’s response to the pandemic.  

In a recent interview for HIMSS TV, we explained that by creating a task force, we’re able to bring in a broad spectrum of individuals and knowledge from EHRA member companies – people who may not ordinarily actively participate in the Association, but who have specific interest and expertise in a topic. For instance, we stood up an Opioid Crisis Task Force in 2018 that is still active.  

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Cyberattacks Increase in the Time of COVID-19

By Justin Armstrong, Chair, and Nam Nguyen, Vice Chair
EHRA Privacy & Security Workgroup

For COVID-19 resources for health IT developers and other stakeholders, click here.

As part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, EHRA is highlighting three alarming trends in cyberattacks that have arisen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that health organizations should pay special attention to:

  1. Increases in COVID-19 themed cyberattacks
  2. Increased risk of exploitation with more employees working from home
  3. Increase in targeting of COVID-19 research and vaccine development
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Health IT and Public Health: Past, Present, Future

For COVID-19 resources for health IT developers and other stakeholders, click here.

By Kedar Ganta, Co-Chair, EHRA Standards & Interoperability Workgroup

For centuries, public health has been a story of the quest to find effective means of preventing diseases, containing outbreaks and analyzing health trends in the population. 

The “old” public health ecosystem focused on the environment, while the “new” public health focus is on the individual within a given population. Shifting the focus from finding sources of epidemic and endemic infectious diseases in our surroundings to finding them in the individual necessitated an evolution from trial and error to scientific inquiry that revolves around defining diseases, measuring their frequency and seeking effective interventions.

During the 20th century, science and technology reshaped our shared understanding of diseases and helped restructure public health and medicine. This “new” era will be guided by the rapidly growing availability of health data to detect, observe and understand health patterns at a population level using advanced computing and analytics.

Electronic health records (EHRs) continue to play an important role in influencing and improving population health outcomes by efficiently collecting standardized individual data that can be shared among different healthcare organizations and public health agencies.

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The Fight to Control COVID-19 Demands Data

For COVID-19 resources for health IT developers and other stakeholders, click here.

COVID-19 arrived unexpectedly as a highly contagious disease that surprised everyone, requiring healthcare providers and public health officials to take quick action and make decisions on how to care for those infected, how to slow down (if not prevent) the spread, how to improve treatment options, and how to identify a vaccine. Yet this pandemic continues to take too many lives and affect too many more.  

To understand how to treat the patients, which risk factors make some people more vulnerable, and why it spread so fast, access to data has been proven essential. A patient’s clinical record to facilitate treating those who are ill, combined with further socio-demographic data to research and identify those at highest risk and new data to support clinical trials – all are essential to flatten and ultimately bend the curve as far down as possible. 

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