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Electronic Health Records used to combat Zika Virus

Oct
15

Date: October 15th, 2016

Most clinicians do get frustrated with the electronic health records but there are times when they become of some use. One of such cases was witnessed in the war against Zika virus – and to be specific in Miami. Fear is all over that the Zika virus is on a spread spree. That prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do what it has not done ever before; advise travelers not to go to a location in the continental U.S. The CDC issued a travel advisory for the pregnant women, those with plans to get pregnant and their partners residing within or travelling to the Miami neighborhood – Wynwood. The advisory asked them to keep off the areas if possible and also get tested and take precautions.

Athenahealth Responds Immediately

After the travel advisory was issued, athenahealth – a health IT cloud service provider – immediately started working. It went through its health records in the Wynwood network to locate pregnant women and those who are sexually active but were yet to get tested for Zika. Dr. Brian Anderson, who is a senior manager of clinical effectiveness for Watertown, Massachusetts-located athenahealth, said that they published the alerts immediately. With just a single alert regarding the CDC advisory, over 80,000 health care providers were reached.

Also, the vendor used the EHR to send a specific notice to 94 clinicians located in 24 different athenahealth centres who provide services to 1,800 risked patients in the Miami area. Anderson said that the providers were also sent an email as a follow-up. Most of the patients that athenahealth reached are linked to two organizations: a nearby OB/GYN practice and Borinquen Health Care Center of Miami Dade which is a Federally Qualified Health Center located in Wynwood. Anderson said that none of the two had located any at-risk or infected Zika patients.

How Athenahealth responded to the situation

Athenahealth started to send emails to the involved patients and then followed up with calls requesting them to create time and go for a Zika test. They are still making the calls and hope that some will start to take the tests serious and go for them. A senior associate at Athena Research division, Stewart Richardson, said that they will be on track with the whole thing. After the CDC alert, Richardson used it to build search parameters.

Anderson said that it would take a week to gauge the effectiveness of the initiative. However, he has fears that the state as well as local authorities may get overwhelmed by an increase in Zika tests orders. His fears are based data gotten out of athenaClinicals network, which shows a surge in test orders nationwide, most of them being ordered in Florida.

Richardson said that Athenahealth is keenly observing the Zika test results throughout its network and it will share insights depending on the records it has.

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