ACOEM Wants Workers' Health Info Included in EHRs

Electronic health records for general group health typically don't include data fields for a patient's occupational risks or work capacity, notes the college's president, Dr. Karl Auerbach.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure workers' health information is a fundamental component of electronic health records (EHRs). ACOEM's president, Dr. Karl Auerbach, wrote a letter to Dr. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., ScM, national coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, urging HHS to make sure incentives are in place eo encourage physicians to add information about patients' work 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," he said. "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."

His letter contains recommendations for standards for collecting worker health information in HHS's proposed Stage 3 Meaningful Use Criteria for EHRs, which are now under development. "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," 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."

"Incorporating basic occupational demographic information into all EHRs could make important contributions to public health practice and research," he added. "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."

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