Source Newsroom: American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM)
Federal government encouraged to incentivize collection of work health information as a part of meaningful use standards for EHRs
Newswise — The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has formally called upon the federal government to take steps that would help make the inclusion of worker-health information a fundamental component of electronic health records (EHRs).
Saying that “work affects health and health affects work,” ACOEM urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure that physicians are incentivized to add information about a patient’s work life as they build EHRs.
“Approximately 140 million Americans are employed. Their health can affect their ability to work safely and productively, and in turn their jobs can affect their health,” said ACOEM President Karl Auerbach, MD.
“Although many vendors have developed specialized EHR systems for occupational medicine, EHRs for general group health have not typically included features related to a patient’s work life, such as data fields to code a patient’s occupational risks or work capacity – despite clear evidence that such data can be critically important for quality care in almost any field of medical practice,” he said.
In a set of recommendations, ACOEM urged inclusion of standards for collection of worker health information in HHS’s proposed Stage 3 Meaningful Use Criteria for EHRs, currently under development.
Among its recommendations, ACOEM calls for coding in EHRs of a patient’s occupation and industry, as well as the inclusion of information regarding a patient’s “functional status” – health factors that impact the ability to work.
“We believe that work status, as recorded in an occupation and industry code, is important for essentially all medical specialties involved in the care of adult patients,” Dr. Auerbach said. “This is the first step in bringing attention to the importance of our medical system taking a more active role in the prevention, management, and assessment of disability.”
ACOEM also provided recommendations for features that would help physicians more readily make the transition to worker-health-related EHRs. These include the need for a robust physician-patient messaging capability; standardized “minimum data sets” to allow efficient information transfer; and strong firewalls to ensure compliance with the confidentiality requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information and Non-Disclosure Act (GINA).
“Collection of basic industry and occupational information in all medical settings is feasible and can be accomplished by administrative personnel without increasing the burden of clinicians,” Dr. Auerbach said. “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Institute of Medicine and others have pointed to approaches for collecting this data. Clinicians can then probe for further occupational detail when relevant to the clinical context.”
“Incorporating basic occupational demographic information into all EHRs could make important contributions to public health practice and research,” Dr. Auerbach said. “Ignoring this fundamental determinant of health puts at risk several important societal priorities: achieving the triple aim of improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs of health care; reducing health disparities; improving population health; and providing the nation a productive workforce.”
ACOEM’s EHR recommendations are available at www.acoem.org/MeaningfulUseEHRs.aspx.
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The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) represents more than 4,000 physicians specializing in occupational and environmental medicine. Founded in 1916, ACOEM is the nation’s largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, disability management, research, and education. For more information, visit www.acoem.org.