ONC, CDC Initiative Refocused To Use EHRs in Ebola Screening Efforts

October 17, 2014 in News

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CDC are leveraging an initiative designed to help providers achieve the meaningful use program’s public health objectives to enhance electronic screening tools for Ebola, Health Data Management reports.


Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

In August 2013, ONC and CDC created the Public Health Electronic Health Records Vendors Collaboration Initiative to help providers meet public health standards under Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the program.

Initiative Focuses on Ebola Screening

CDC Medical Care Task Force Deputy Director Dana Meaney Delman said the initiative’s new focus should allow officials “to explore ways in which the [EHR] can serve as a prompt to help our health care professionals around the country identify individuals that may be at risk for Ebola.”

According to Health Data Management, CDC has created a clinical algorithm that will evaluate “returned traveler[s],” as well as a checklist for providers to use when examining U.S. patients who could have Ebola. The initiative’s goal is to ensure travel histories and assessments of important clinical indicators and symptoms are included in patients’ EHRs to help providers diagnose and isolate individuals infected with the virus (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 10/17).

Software Could Help Identify Ebola Patients

In related news, advocates say that diagnostic support software could help health care providers identify and diagnose Ebola patients, but such tools must be fully integrated into hospitals’ EHR systems, Modern Healthcare reports.

According to Modern Healthcare, diagnostic support software — such as Massachusetts General Hospital’s DXplain, Isabel Healthcare’s Isabel and Logical Images’ VisualDX — take into account patients’ travel histories and diseases that are widespread in traveled regions.

However, Art Papier, CEO of Logical Images, said that although such software exists, “it’s not being used everywhere and a lot of people don’t even know about it.”

One of the main barriers to adoption is the tools’ inability to fully integrate with providers’ existing EHR systems.

Brian Patty, vice president and CMIO of the HealthEast Care System in Minneapolis, said full EHR integration would eliminate redundancies. Patty is currently planning a pilot project to integrate Isabel with the hospital’s Epic EHR system in a way that would allow the software to “sit in the background and look at data elements about the patient” and alert the provider to any potential high-risk diagnoses (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 10/14).

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