Electronic health records shown to help stop preventable disease

Researchers from Columbia University School of Nursing released findings on Thursday that show the use of electronic health records helped fight vaccine-preventable diseases by giving a broader array of information to medical professionals.

The study showed that automatic reporting helped to reduce the lag time between data submitted on vaccinations, along with, in some cases, reducing the paper work and staff time devoted to traditional doing these submissions. This was shown to increase the health professionals' knowledge about individuals, which helped them make more informed decisions.

"The efficiency offered by automation has significant implications for managing public health, whether it is by informing a local physician on the health of an individual or informing policymakers on health trends within a whole community," Jacqueline Merrill, lead researcher and CU Nursing professor, said. "For example, EHRs greatly enhance our ability to help at-risk populations for whom up-to-date immunizations are critical, such as children, immunosuppressed individuals, or the chronically ill. Before automated registries, reporting was less structured and data submittal was less consistent."

The study looked at 1.7 million records submitted by 217 primary care practices in New York between June 2007 and June 2011, which encompassed a time period before the electronic health records and a period after. The results showed that while submissions per day stayed the same, submissions of new and historical records increased by 18 percent and 98 percent, respectively.

"Automating the process appears very successful," Merrill said. "In fact, it's so successful that we believe it would be beneficial to retrofit data from the past so it can also be included in the EHR."