Dear NPR: There IS a treatment for that diagnosis: electronic health records and immunizations

NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday described “growing pains” in health information technology (HIT) by saying many doctors in Colorado had to enter immunization records twice: first into their Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, and then into the state’s immunization registry.   According to the story, many doctors fail to do both

In fact, immunization registries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for HIT, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have worked together to implement solutions for this problem.*  The federal EHR Incentive Program (better known as “Meaningful Use”) includes an objective for EHR systems to upload shot records into immunization registries, eliminating the “double entry” problem.  The Colorado registry has implemented the necessary standards, and instructions for doing so are published on the same website cited in the NPR story.

This process is still not simple.  But the needed standardization is further improved in Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, scheduled to begin in October 2013.  And in October 2015 federally-certified EHRs could be required to download immunization records and alerts for clinicians about which vaccines a patient lacks.   Such automated data and reminders are needed to accelerate the completeness of childhood immunization which remains subpar.

I appreciate NPR’s attention to this challenging issue.  But while various difficulties affect the transition to electronic health records, NPR inadvertently selected a success story to illustrate the problems.

*Full disclosure: I was among those involved in this collaboration.

 

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