ACOEM Asks for Occupational Data in EHRs in Stage 3
Since the publication of the proposed recommendations for Meaningful Use stage 3 requirements last November, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology has received its share comments. Organizations such as the American Medical Association and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives provided their concerns and suggestions – and a few days before the January 14 filing deadline, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) did as well.
The ACOEM’s main concern, as stated in a letter to the National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, is the need for patients’ workplace information to be included in their electronic health records. This includes documenting patients’ job duties, work capacity, occupational risks, and more. Many occupational medicine EHR systems currently include such fields, but most generic EHRs do not.
It goes without saying that a patient’s health can be significantly affected by the environment in which they work. Therefore, the letter states, “a basic knowledge of a worker’s job duties and hazards can be invaluable to all physicians in order to recognize and treat work-related conditions and to prevent injury and illness in other workers. Furthermore, a physician’s knowledge of a patient’s job duties is foundational for facilitating a prompt and safe return to work.”
Many physicians understand first-hand how working conditions can impact a person’s well-being. A paper published last October found that increased use of EHR software has led to musculoskeletal problems among physicians, including neck, shoulder and back pain. This is largely due to poor workstation layouts and bad posture.
For patients facing similar situations, symptoms can be treated but not eliminated altogether, unless physicians can address the working conditions that are at the root of the patient’s problem. Not addressing them can result in poor medical outcomes and higher cost of care. For this reason, the ACOEM has asked that the inclusion of occupational data in EHRs be addressed in Meaningful Use stage 3.
Amanda Guerrero is a content writer specializing in EHR, healthcare technology and Meaningful Use. In addition to maintaining her own health IT-related blog, she contributes to websites such as HealthTechnologyReview and HITECHAnswers.net.