EMR system collaborates with health IT to battle MERS outbreak

EMR system collaborates with health IT to battle MERS outbreak

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have spent a large amount of time promoting electronic medical systems as a means of improving long-term quality of care. Over time, steady implementation by physicians across the country has yielded intriguing results in terms of hidden patterns of disease and conditions found through data analysis. 

While EMR systems have certainly brought improvements to the industry due to high-level functionalities, their true value when it comes to urgent care has yet to be explored. However, according to EHRIntelligence, the first incidence of Middle East respiratory syndrome to occur in the U.S. was handled without further harm by a crew of health care professionals and a suite of health information technology. Thanks to quick access to the EMR information of the infected patient and other coordinating technologies, the hospital was able to deftly manage the outbreak.

Approaching a serious threat
Much like other evolving respiratory conditions before it, MERS poses the greatest threat to Americans' health among transmittable illnesses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MERS was first reported in 2012 when a citizen of Saudi Arabia contracted the disease. MERS is characterized by a sudden onset of acute respiratory illness, fever, cough and shortness of breath. Though some people diagnosed with MERS only report levels of mild discomfort, 30 percent of those infected die from the condition.

This was the threat that faced Alan Kumar, M.D., chief medical information officer at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana. Kumar oversaw the combination of health information technologies that was used to treat the first ever case of MERS in the U.S. Though Kumar had never seen the disease in-person before, the use of an EMR system in conjunction with video surveillance of activity in the room and vital sign monitoring proved critical for the patient's health.

Kumar told The Washington Post that not only did the technologies combine to aid physicians during treatment, but his staff was well trained on the technology's best uses.

 "If they all know the protocols and standards, [and follow them], when something like this comes in, the exposure is minimized," Kumar told the newspaper.

Finding EMR systems' industry niche
The key to the hospital's overall success was the ability to prevent the use of technology from clogging up efficient work flows and conflicting with each other. Instead, Kumar told EHRIntelligence that this complementary feature of medical technology is what the industry should strive for.

"That's where the combination is additive and not conflicting," Kumar said. "It's very important as the institution grows to develop flow dynamics that help you get the patients in, through the system as efficiently as possible, and then home or to other healthcare as needed. Because of that, we were able to track touches with the patient by a multitude of providers."

With this complex integration of EMR technology into Community Hospital's everyday workflows, the facility is already prepared to attest to meaningful use stage 2 and will be making an official submission for evaluation to the CMS in the coming weeks. The CDC had been monitoring the hospital because of the critical nature of a MERS infection in the U.S., and the agency was impressed with the data that the hospital acquired, stored and responsibly shared in a short amount of time. 

Health care professionals should be aware that EMR system implementation is best done from this perspective - though all federally mandated initiatives may add extra work to individual physician's days, the benefits to both acute and long-term care are too numerous to ignore.

Health care news brought to you by Complete HealthCare Solutions, Inc., leaders in health care software solutions, consulting and implementations.

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