Electronic Health Records in Action
Expanding the use of health information technology, specifically the electronic health record (EHR), is a pillar of the Affordable Care Act. EHR systems can help detect and monitor public health emergencies and focus responses by integrating patient care and public health.
In response to the 2009 influenza pandemic, the Indian Health Service (IHS) leveraged its existing EHR, through collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to rapidly develop, validate, and implement a national electronic surveillance system covering over 60% of its facilities serving the historically vulnerable American Indian and Alaska Native population.
This new surveillance system, the IHS Influenza Awareness System (IIAS), provided timely information on influenza-like illness, influenza vaccination rates, and potential adverse events following vaccination. Its results allowed for strategic allocation of limited resources during the pandemic. Because it used existing, routinely collected EHR data, the system accomplished these outcomes at minimal cost.
IIAS reports are posted weekly at www.ihs.gov/flu. IHS is currently expanding this scalable system to include other health conditions. The IIAS highlights how EHR systems can improve public health responses by providing timely health information to both clinicians in the field and agency decision makers.