Improvement of population and public health has been a stated goal of the HITECH Act and the CMS EHR Incentive Programs for Meaningful Use (MU) from the beginning. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the leader in U.S. public health, has worked on MU with ONCHIT extensively and has been at the MU planning table most recently as part of the Stage 2 MU Public Health Task Force. This task force has developed the MU public health objectives for Eligible Providers (EPs), including the 4 objectives that are part of Stage 2 MU:
- Successful submission of electronic data on immunizations to an Immunization Registry or Immunization Information System (IIS); one of the 17 core objectives
- Successful submission of patient data about a syndrome or collection of symptoms to a Public Health Agency (PHA) to provide Syndromic surveillance; one of 6 menu objectives
- Successful submission of patient data to a Cancer Registry; one of 6 menu objectives
- Successful submission of data to a Specialized Registry; one of 6 menu objectives
Certified EHRs have helped EPs to be ready for submission of this patient data, but some will qualify for exclusion if the PHA does not have the capacity to accept the data. The CDC plays an important role in the development of IIS and PHA readiness to accept and manage data.
“CDC recommends a flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu.”
Collecting population-based data that is geographically specific will improve the ability to see disease trends and outbreaks as well as to identify geographic areas of risk or high incidence. In Stage 2 MU, data will move in one direction from the EP to the PHA, but the goal for Stage 3 MU is bidirectional movement of data, which will enable providers to be actively involved in community population health.
“CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available and that vaccination continue into December, January, and beyond.”
You don’t have to wait for Stage 3 MU to impact population health in your community. Have you had your Influenza vaccine this year? While supporting MU, the CDC has not neglected their role in disease prevention. If you’re reading this, then I am going to assume that you are older than 6 months of age, in which case, the CDC recommends that you get vaccinated for flu annually. This recommendation is for the general public, but what are your flu vaccine obligations if you are a healthcare provider?
“People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 ft. away through coughs and sneezes!”
As members of the general public, we can all improve our community immunity by getting the flu vaccine, but healthcare providers have additional reasons for getting vaccinated. In a recent JAMA “Viewpoint” article, Dr. Arthur Caplan reviews the 2013-2014 New York state mandate requiring health care personnel to either get the flu vaccine or wear a mask.(1) In this article Dr. Caplan delineates the “special obligations health care practitioners have to their patients.” Healthcare provider obligations include the requirement to think of their patient’s health first, to “do no harm,” to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to be an example to the public for disease prevention.
“Most healthy adults may be able to infect others [with the flu] beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.”
In addition to getting our own flu vaccine we should encourage our patients to get vaccinated. The CDC identifies patients with renal disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension as high risk for complications related to influenza. Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for these patients.
The CDC, as the leader for disease prevention for individuals and the collective public, tirelessly campaigns, supports, and advocates for patient flu vaccination. It is no surprise then that the CDC has worked hand in hand with those creating HIT policy and MU strategies to determine ways for MU to benefit U.S. public health.
As a healthcare worker, consider the flu vaccine for your patients, your family, and your community. As an EP, work to vaccinate your high-risk patients and use your certified EHR to document vaccination. While you’re at it, complete a core objective for Stage 2 MU.
1. JAMA. 2013; 310(17):1797-1798