How EHR vendors are arming providers to handle COVID-19
As healthcare organizations ramp up efforts to treat COVID-19 patients, their health IT vendors are looking to provide them with tools to manage cases, analyze data and assess patients remotely.
The nation’s largest vendors of electronic health records systems have augmented their existing systems over the last three months to give users of its systems more tools to cope with the crisis.
In addition to equipping customers, the HIT vendors are taking steps to protect their workforces from infection by implementing work-at-home policies and issuing guidelines for sick employees, whether they have COVID-19 or some other illness.
What follows are some of the tools and capabilities that EHR vendors have added to providers’ arsenals in dealing with the pandemic.
Allscripts is touting its virtual health solutions to enable providers to identify and treat patients without requiring them to come to a physical facility.
Executives say Allscripts Virtual Triage can serve as a “digital front door” that enables healthcare organizations to virtually identify, manage and triage high-risk patients, and they contend it can be implemented in a short period of time. In addressing the COVID-19 crush, the capability can help screen large numbers of patients, triage them based on responses to questionnaires and support sick patients who can manage their symptoms at home.
In addition, Allscripts offers FollowMyHealth, which enables providers to give direct patient-to-provider telehealth services. Versions of the application range from an asynchronous email-visit option to a full video-conferencing capability.
The company noted that it is “continuously updating our software to align existing product structures (order sets, social history questions and more) with CDC best practice recommendations.”
Its products promote virtual care by enabling clinicians to remotely message patients or enable providers to review and respond to patient cases via an app, and it’s working to deploy enhanced online scheduling to all of its practices that use its products.
“For broader scale messaging, customers can use GroupCall to launch a campaign to affected patients in the case that there is a need to cancel patient appointments due to office closure or overload,” it added.
Its epocrates mobile app for clinicians “now features an interactive decision tool based on the latest CDC’s authoritative guidance. In under 60 seconds, clinicians can access the CDC’s updated guidance relevant to their patient’s situation, directly from their mobile device,” it reported.
More information on AthenaHealth’s COVID-19 response can be found here.
Company executives said its EHR technology is “helping health systems effectively screen and monitor their patient populations for potential cases of viruses.”
The company said it developed and pushed out a COVID-19 update to its Millennium clients. Telehealth capabilities from its products will help “improve access to healthcare from home to help mitigate the impact and spread of the virus.”
In addition, Cerner has developed a site dedicated to clients on the company’s efforts to support COVID-19 providers.
The company is highlighting its efforts to integrate virtual care into practices’ efforts to treat patients.
Its telehealth “allows providers to enable remote connections with their patients, delivering the quality of an in-office visit without the need for a physical office visit. TeleVisits are secure and fully integrated into the eClinicalWorks EHR,” it reported. It enables use of existing equipment and webcams by both providers and patients.
More information about its telehealth capabilities can be found here.
With its clinical records systems used by a number of the nation’s largest health systems, Epic sees value in having provider organizations use its information sharing capabilities.
The company is encouraging organizations to share COVID-19 information through Epic’s interoperability network, saying providers can share travel-screening documentation and infection-status information with both Epic and non-Epic organizations through Care Everywhere, Epic’s interoperability network.
Similarly, Epic has advised provider customers that its MyChart portal can be used to handle questions, complete screening for COVID-19 or communicate through e-visits, video visits or secure messaging to preclude unnecessary visits and “protect patients and clinic or hospital staff from infection.”
Several weeks ago, Epic issued an update for its travel screen criteria to identify patients who had traveled to affected regions. While travel restrictions mitigate these concerns, Epic says it will continue “to update these criteria automatically as the Centers for Disease Control releases new guidelines.”
Using analytics within Epic’s suite of products, clinicians can create and run reports to see how patients are being affected in a community – for example, a search might enable a physician to map positive COVID-19 patients by ZIP Code to discover potential hot spots.
More information on Epic’s COVID-19 capabilities and updates can be found here.
The company says it is providing system configuration instructions and guidance, added to workflow documents in recent weeks, for handling patients under investigation for COVID-19. These enable providers to capture a patient’s symptoms and travel history, regardless of the setting in which a patient is first seen.
Called Expanse, it enables staff to quickly adapt its typical intake and triage process to create an integrated approach that lines up with CDC recommendations.
Fred Bazzoli is a contributing writer to Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.