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CDC, ONC collaborate to improve use of EHRs for Ebola screening

The Public Health-EHR Vendors Collaboration Initiative, composed of public health practitioners and EHR vendors, convened earlier this month to discuss Ebola electronic screening tools and protocols. The PH-EHR Vendors Collaboration Initiative was established by the CDC the ONC in August 2013 to help providers meet public health reporting criteria for meaningful use stages 1 and 2.

The group, however, has put meaningful use topics on hold and is focused on leading discussions about improving EHRs to screen possible cases of Ebola.

The initiative replaced its monthly meeting with two special session webinars focused on the response to Ebola in the United States. The group convened for the first session on October 16, to explore the inclusion of travel history and the assessment of relevant clinical signs and symptoms into an electronic format to alert clinicians to consider the diagnosis of Ebola, and also to discuss ways in which existing EHRs can be configured to support Ebola screening.

The CDC Ebola team reviewed the clinical algorithm and guidelines created by CDC before any cases of the disease were present in the United States. Dana Meany-Delman, epidemiologist and deputy lead of CDC’s Medical Care Task Force for Ebola response, talked about ways to translate existing algorithms and guidelines into the EHR.

“There are a lot of things the EHR is capable of doing and we want to make sure that we have the mechanisms to rapidly identify the Ebola cases,” Meany-Delman said.

ONC’s Chief Medical Officer, Jon White explained that the majority of hospitals have EHRs that are able to provide the decision support with clinical knowledge to determine whether or not a person has been exposed to a patient with Ebola. He also talked about the ONC’s efforts in configuring existing EHRs to support standards development and Ebola screening protocols. The ONC is working with health IT developers and listening to suggestions from the Electronic Health Records Association to explore the capabilities that EHRs have to support screening procedures.

After the presentation from members of the ONC and CDC, the group opened the dialogue to answer questions and hear comments from the 596 webinar attendees. Information about the second part of the special sessions webinar on Ebola can be found on the PH-EHR Vendors Collaboration Initiative website.

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