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Health related information is necessary for understanding disease trends and efficacy of medicine and medical interventions in a given setting. For example, data stored regarding occurrence of flu and flu-like symptoms among immigrants seeking medical advice in primary health clinics could help monitor the spread of a possible health threat. Parameters could be set within the system that is linked to government health monitoring teams that would indicate if a certain number of health-related instances would prove to be indicators of a possible epidemic. Imagine a hospital with an alarm system with indicators for spread of nosocomial infection that has breached the desired limit tolerable for human interaction.
In 2005, according to (Ball and Gold 72) an estimate of 75% of Americans is in favor of having a nationwide electronic system regulated for exchanging information regarding theirs health. In situ, it was stated that Electronic Health Records of patients would enable physicians to enhance their relationship with their patients since retrieval and accurateness of patient information is available within seconds.
According to Dr. Jha, the Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging around 700,000 clinicians to use electronic health records with due incentives for those who will comply and penalties for those who would disregard the rule (Jha 304). Blumenthal (501-504), stated that the Obama Government through the implementation of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, would fund $27 billion in incentives for the use of EHRs by eligible physicians and hospitals.
One fundamental factor that needs to be considered is the workforce behind the formulation and implementation as well as the set of programs needed for HER to be used as a monitoring and alarm system for hospitals. In an article written by Joint Work Force Task force (5) by AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association) in 2008 in coordination with AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association), recommended the need for the establishment of a healthcare workforce with updated core competencies that would be responsible for monitoring EHRs. Thus, this would include further trainings on health information systems form basic computer applications to management skills in health information. Another fundamental aspect to look into is the coding system that would be used for the electronic health records. According to Jackson and Muckerman (1) and Brooks (2), the CMS (Center for MEDICARE and MEDICAID Services) that the current standard coding system in the United States for dealing with electronic health records which is the ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases,Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification) - is outdated (30 years old) and not descriptive enough. The coding system calculates payments, provides diagnosis codes for all settings, compile statistics and assess quality, but has lost its ability to accurately measure and relay up to date clinical information (Jackson and Muckerman, 1) and is not flexible and accurate enough in incorporating current diagnoses and procedures (Brooks, 8). Thus, in 2013, the United States government will institute the use of the new coding system across all states which is the ICD -10-CM/PCS that will expand the existing set from 13,000 codes from ICD-9-CM to more than 150,000 codes set by the new updated system. The transition will definitely improve health information exchange and enhance the ability of conducting health surveillance as indicated by Brooks (11)
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There is also the need to establish the ethical aspect of procuring EHR for monitoring purposes, which further entails upholding the right to privacy and confidentiality of individual health records. In a newsletter from AHIMA (Teachable Moment, 1), one example of improper use of information and disregarding protocol in regards to patient records confidentiality is the improper access of “electronic health records of victims of a shooting spree on Jan. 8 by 3 employees of the University Medical Center.”
With technology comes vast information exchange that can be utilize by the healthcare sector. Health alarming issues such as SARS, AIDS, H5N1 virus, H1N1 virus, and the like could be prevented from developing into an outbreak of pandemonium scale if the re is proper management and utilization of electronic health records.
A possible approach to research on this gap in health informatics can be done though a quantitative research. The statistical records that would be generated in a controlled setting of a certain number of hospitals within a a particular state would be suggested to be used as data for determining the feasibility of the study.
Researches utilizing information from electronic database for control of spread of a disease is minimal. This area of research would be vital for developing appropriate control measures in regards to prevention of the infectious and contagious diseases spreading before it would reach an alarming level.
Electronic health records when properly managed can bring into existence a health status monitoring program that would prohibit the onset of a possible outbreak.
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