The Latest on Public Health Data Reporting and Stage 2 Meaningful Use
We’ve discussed before on this blog how electronic health records — anything from family practice EHR software to large hospital systems —can, in theory, contribute to public health goals by facilitating large-scale epidemiological analysis and similar projects. That’s one more reason, besides the fact that they increase efficiency by about 6% annually, for healthcare providers of all sizes to consider them. And, in fact, it appears that most are: As of 2013, 78% of office-based physicians reported using EHR or EMR software, as opposed to only 18% in 2001. Moreover, more and more providers are focusing on meeting federal meaningful use criteria, with about three-quarters of current EHR users saying their systems are up to that standard.
But has it actually been shown that electronic records do improve public health reporting? As of last month, the answer is yes.
According to data released by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), hospitals meeting Stage 2 meaningful use criteria were able to significantly increase their electronic reporting of health data to registries and public health agencies in 2014. “These data clearly demonstrate that public health agencies and hospitals are capable of exchanging electronic health information,” Dawn Heisey-Grove of the ONC told industry website MedicalResearch.com. “Adoption of electronic health records … and other health IT has made it possible to shift from time-intensive, paper-based public health reporting to electronic information exchange, which enables sending more complete information to public health agencies faster.”
What were these hospitals better and faster at reporting? There are three major public health aspects that factor into Stage 2 meaningful use (reporting was optional in Stage 1). The latest data from the ONC show that 88% of Stage 2 hospitals electronically reported to immunization registries, 85% electronically reported their lab results, and 75% electronically reported their syndromic surveillance. Additionally, 70% of medications administered were electronically tracked, 36% of patient transitions were accompanied by electronic summaries, and 15% of patients downloaded or transmitted their own electronic health data.
It’s important to note that this analysis only included data from hospitals using Stage 2-compliant EHRs. That doesn’t mean that the family practice EHR software used by small practices can’t also help in public reporting goals, it just means this particular analysis hasn’t addressed those contexts. The other major step that needs to be taken, Heisey-Grove said in the MedicalResearch.com interview, is assessing whether public health reporting directly leads to better public health outcomes.