What if doctors could automatically report information about a patient with elevated blood lead levels or a case of Legionnaire’s Disease directly to their local public health agency? Imagine it: A doctor would find electronic case reporting a user-friendly and intuitive feature within their electronic health record (EHR) systems. Public health agencies would see significant enhancements to surveillance and disease response through an increase in accurate and timely case reporting. Ultimately, our communities would be better protected and healthier.
We don’t have to imagine this decades-old vision for much longer; we are closer now to electronic case reporting (eCR) than ever before.
How are we closer?
Upon a foundation of work supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the public health community is advancing toward a nationwide vision, infrastructure, and standards for eCR. Below are just a few of the recent initiatives that the community has been working towards to foster the right environment to support eCR.
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and CDC developed the Reportable Conditions Knowledge Management System (or RCKMS) to serve as the centralized, authoritative source of information on disease reporting requirements across the U.S., detailing the who, what, where, when, and how of case reporting.
The ONC Structured Data Capture (SDC) work of the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework describes a model for EHRs to capture and store data for standardized electronic case reports and follow-up information for public health.
The Public Health Community Platform developed by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is another CDC-funded initiative that provides the collaboration space, technical infrastructure, and governance for innovative solutions to public health problems like interoperability between public health and healthcare, a necessary capability for eCR to succeed.
More support for eCR
Electronic case reporting is also a new reporting option adopted in the final rule with comment period in Stage 3 of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record Incentive Program (“Meaningful Use”). CMS acknowledges the opportunity to improve case reporting through a decrease in burden placed on providers to complete case reports and an improvement in compliance with laws requiring case reports to public health agencies. JPHIT applauds CMS for including electronic case reporting (Measure 3, page 457) in the third and final stage of Meaningful Use.
JPHIT believes the timing is now to make eCR the norm for public health case reporting. Investments by all stakeholders – both public health and providers – are vital to implementing the whole continuum of data collection, processing, and application that will accompany eCR capabilities. Recently, JPHIT sent a letter to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden strongly encouraging CDC to support and sustain eCR infrastructure. JPHIT’s nine member public health organizations fully supports the development and implementation of eCR capabilities and will continue to work collaboratively to make it a reality.
Read JPHIT’s position on Stage 3 MU Proposed Rule
Hear about an example of electronic case detection and reporting
Read how the Ebola Outbreak demonstrates the need for eCR