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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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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Enabling Improved Price Transparency In Healthcare

price transparEncyOn June 3, the public comment period on ONC’s NPRM implementing health IT provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act closed. These comment windows offer a unique opportunity to gain a broader perspective on the state of the health IT industry. 

Upon our review of the feedback submitted to ONC, an overwhelming trend emerged—nearly 55% of the 2,013 comments were from individual patients commenting in favor of increased price transparency in the healthcare industry. Patients shared stories of the challenges they faced in determining the cost of treatment before receiving care, and dozens expressed the shock and financial hardship they experienced when they received a bill for their care. 

In the months since the public comment window closed, we’ve seen this demand for healthcare price transparency gain attention across the industry. President Trump issued an executive order, and the Senate is considering the “Lower Health Care Costs Act,” legislation that aims to improve patient access to price information in the healthcare industry.

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Interoperability: Promise and Progress 

Interoperability(1)For healthcare providers and their patients, interoperability holds the promise to substantially improve quality and reduce costs, while enabling coordination of care and engagement of patients with their caregivers. As ONC’s annual Interoperability Forum gets underway, it’s important to focus not just on where we want to be, but on how far we’ve come. 

EHRA members are strong proponents of health information exchange; our members have supported hundreds of thousands of providers in their effort to exchange electronic health information through the development of interoperability modules in their solutions, and participation in industry frameworks such as the eHealth Exchange, CommonWell Health Alliance, and Carequality.  (more…)

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