By Gabriel Perna
A new study from researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing and partner institutions has concluded that when providers use an electronic health records (EHR) to automate immunization data shared between themselves and public health agencies, physicians are able to treat individual patients faster and more effectively.
The study’s researchers examined 1.7 million records submitted by 217 primary care practices to the NY Citywide Immunizations Registry between January 2007 and June 2011— before and after the launch of automated reporting via an EHR. They looked at differences in records submitted by day, by lag time, and by documentation of eligibility for subsidized vaccines.
In addition to speeding up the time in which a patient is treated, they also found automated reporting of immunization data reduced the lag time associated with data submitted on vaccinations and even reduced the paperwork and staff time traditionally devoted to managing these required submissions.
"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,” lead researcher and CU Nursing professor Jacqueline Merrill, R.N., said in a statement. “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 EHR-assisted automated reporting increased the number of submissions of new and historical records by 18 percent and 98 percent respectively. The number of submissions within 14 days (as required in NYC) also increased, as did the number of submissions within 2 days. Overall, the EHR improved usage of the registry.