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Is your EHR Prepared to Fight Ebola Crisis?

November 06, 2014

Physicians need to start focusing on EHRs for preventing the spread of Ebola. According to healthcare experts, America can fight the outbreak of diseases like Ebola by improving and connecting EHR programs.

The EHR software is being promoted as a key tool in screening potential carriers of the deadly virus. Hospitals and small practices can prioritize questions in the health record software that can help them identifying the virus. By prioritizing questions, it will become easy for physicians to place the infected patient under special care and protect the medical staff from getting infected too.

EHR systems have gained tremendous popularity in the US due to the quality and speed it delivers to medical practices. Due to these, vital patient data can be easily made accessible to the physicians. However, the fault in EHR involving the first diagnosed Ebola patient in the US, Thomas Duncan has made it necessary for doctors to asses if their health record system is prepared to fight the Ebola crisis.

When Duncan went to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, his travel history from Liberia was entered into the EHR system of the hospital but due to some flaws in the EHR this information never reached the physician who diagnosed him. This led to misinterpretation of his symptoms and instead of getting hospitalized, he was sent home in that highly contagious condition.

Medical experts are emphasizing the benefits of using EHR in the fight against this deadly virus. According to Mark Segal, vice president of government and industry affairs, GE Healthcare IT, EHR systems in the US can be customized to meet workflow demands and particular needs of Ebola.

Quick Facts:

Physicians who use EHRs can score higher on care quality measures for issues like colorectal cancer, diabetes, chlamydia and breast cancer according to Becker's Healthcare, a leading source of legal and business information for the healthcare industry mentioned in its Spine review
Outpatient medical facilities (OPD) that have been adopting and using a health record system for over 15 years can have net savings of $142 billion whereas inpatient facilities can have net savings of $371 billion as reported by iHealthBeat, a daily news digest reporting on the impact of technology on healthcare

EHR Vendors to Work in Co-ordination with Physicians

Currently, EHR vendors in the US are working together and developing protocols that are specific to Ebola. Since history of travel is being seen as a vital factor in confirming Ebola symptoms, vendors are being asked to consider including travel histories and records of Ebola clinical symptoms in an electronic format. This will help the physicians to easily identify the virus carriers.

It is being anticipated that the vendors will also be working closely with physicians to ensure that the healthcare industry comes up with an effective plan to deal with the virus. Reportedly, members of the EHR Association have started making adjustments, including capturing information related to patient travel for dealing with the Ebola outbreak.

Apart from developing a new set of safety precautions regarding Ebola for medical experts, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) held a seminar with EHR vendors on October 16 to enquire about the best EHR practices when addressing Ebola. It was concluded that EHRs may not be a solution in themselves for fighting this disease but the software can surely be used by practices to streamline the process of identifying the virus.

Importance of Coding in Responding to Ebola

Coding for Ebola is as important as the selection of an effective EHR system. There is no code for Ebola in ICD-9 and this lack of coding specificity is marring the ability of practices to track and respond to the virus. It has become necessary to hire skilled coders who can code the disease correctly. To overcome coding challenges, many physicians are outsourcing their billing need to MedicalBillersandCoders.com. MBC's experienced team is trained in error-free coding for Ebola, timely claims submission, HIPAA compliance, denial management and various other RCM tasks.


Category : EMR / EHR / Health IT