Update from CDC Meaningful Use on the Intersection Between Ebola, EHRs, and Public Health

The Meaningful Use Communication Staff at the CDC are reaching out to the informatics community on how the use of electronic health records (EHRs) can be useful in responding to the Ebola crisis. Please see the statement below from our CDC partners.

Dear Colleagues,

In light of the confirmed first U.S. case of Ebola in Dallas last week, there has been a lot of attention on electronic health records (EHRs) and their intersection with public health.

There are two valuable lessons learned thus far regarding EHR that are relevant to the public health community and its partners within healthcare and the vendors that we work with:

  • EHRs alone do not provide an ironclad assurance in emergency departments or elsewhere that critical information will be ascertained and acted on. Their value for patient care and public health depends as much on the tool users as the tool itself. Think about the workflow that uses the EHR within the healthcare delivery process. An EHR can assist but does not replace practitioner-to-practitioner communication in a healthcare setting.  Care is a combination of people, processes, technology, and other factors, and it is important to be mindful of the workflow around communication about each of these components.
  • When reviewing a public health event, involve the informatics team within both public health and healthcare early to identify how an EHR was used within an event. Informatics staff can participate in the root cause assessment to: analyze data and identify what is relevant; establish chronology of events; and evaluate relevant data across populations served by a hospital network.

There is currently information for healthcare workers and healthcare settings for evaluating returned travelers for Ebola and checklists for evaluating patients for Ebola available at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/index.html and http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/environmental-infection-control-in-hospitals.html.

Now is a good time to work with your clinical partners, including their informaticians and their vendors,  to determine how the existing EHR workflow can assist in using this information, such as how patient travel history or other pertinent information is captured and displayed to healthcare workers.


Meaningful Use Communications

Office of Public Health Scientific Services (OPHSS)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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