EHR Systems are Being Prepared for COVID-19 Vaccines to Deliver Better Patient Experience

EHR Systems are Being Prepared for COVID-19 Vaccines to Deliver Better Patient Experience
It has been over a year since the Novel Coronavirus has affected the world. Several healthcare organizations have transformed the process of the healthcare system to deliver a better patient experience without meeting them in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has revamped the healthcare industry in several ways. After COVID-19, there has been a sudden surge in online tools. 

In the medical field, electronic health records (EHR) has gained importance for tracking patient records. As a result, EHR vendors from everywhere are preparing their products to make sure that when a patient receives this vaccination, it is recorded at the moment. Furthermore, the record can be accessed whenever it is needed. 

Several top health brands, like Epic, Meditech, Cerner, and more, have offered insights into preparations and described the changes they are making to EHR systems and workflow changes. 

Thoughts on Vaccines and EHRs

The Vice President of Meditech, Helen Waters, said, 

“As word of a vaccine started to circulate, we were already working with customer advisory boards to determine what steps would be needed for preparation, looking to our Immunization Registry and patient registries as solutions for tracking and reporting on vaccine administration. We are fully vested in ensuring our customers are well-positioned to hit the ground running.” 

She further added, 

“Here, the CDC informed us of the vaccine codes that would be available and urged vendors to build these codes into their system ASAP. Since the codes were released on Nov. 12, we have updated our customers by sharing these codes along with vaccine guidance. Also, we immediately began working with our interoperability team to review the CDC’s HL7 draft specifications. Providing the solutions and guidance to support our customers through this critical venture and bring an end to this pandemic remains Meditech’s top priority, with all divisions fully invested in these efforts.”

Cerner Started Preparing its Systems for COVID-19 Vaccines in April 

As cases were rising in the United States, Cerner began preparing for the coronavirus in April. At that time, Cerner recognized that patients would play an important role and would need a patient-first strategy that includes tools. The vice president and chief medical officer at Cerner, Dr. David Nill, said, 

“When it became clearer in October that an approved vaccine was likely in early 2021, we engaged with the CDC and some of its information technology suppliers in order to successfully interoperate with federal and state registries. We needed to make sure that our clients were ready on the IT front to handle such a monumental and important task.”

From January to Today 

Several EHR companies are focussing and responding to the COVID-19 and supporting its customer. Chief Product Officer at Athenahealth, Paul Brient, said, 

“We made the first COVID-driven changes available to all our practices back on Jan. 29 when there were only a handful of confirmed cases in the U.S.”

He added-

“We deployed COVID screening questions, diagnostic test orders and direct links to the latest CDC recommendations to all our providers overnight.”

Several vendors have cloud-based and single-instance EHR, allowing them to make changes immediately and to share with the providers. He further explained, 

“Since then, we have pushed out approximately 150 updates ranging from updated assessment content to align to initial CDC travel and exposure guidance, to updated code sets for COVID-19, to patient testing and risk dashboards for our practices to monitor their panels, to workflow enhancements for remote and in-car check in – all delivered immediately in the cloud to the entire athenahealth network.” 

The company started preparation for the coronavirus vaccine in spring 2020. It needed a lot of effort to understand the risk stratification and testing protocols. He further added- 

“As more details of vaccines emerge, we have a team of subject matter experts working to understand the requirements and distribution guidelines defined by the federal government and states in order to provide best practice workflow recommendations and support to our practices.”

Currently, Athenahealth is working with its clients that are participating in vaccine distribution to understand the requirements. Brient said, 

“This training is provided in informative best practices guides within our software. As we did in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will make these enhancements immediately available to all our clients across our cloud-based EHR as soon as they are ready.”

He further added-

“This includes staying abreast of registry updates, partnering with clients that are participating in early vaccination efforts, and making updates to our global compendiums and code libraries as soon as they are available.” 

Dr. Michael Blackman, chief medical officer at Greenway health, said, 

“As pharmaceutical companies began their efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines in earnest with Operation Warp Speed, Greenway Health simultaneously initiated a cross-company initiative to ensure our two EHR solutions were enhanced to support our ambulatory care providers as they began to administer the vaccines.” 

It is also participating with other EHR vendors and the state immunization registries to work for the vaccine. In the healthcare industry, it is important for EHR vendors to understand and to meet the requirements that are required by the providers. 

A Flexible Platform With Powerful Technology

COO and Co-Founder of Dr. Chono said his products are flexible. 

“The platform has an electronic medical records app with powerful technology that enables a medical practice to build a practice in a bespoke way. With different options for tracking fields, a practice for example can select a ‘custom field’ creating a field tied to the medical record for ‘COVID-19 vaccines’ allowing data points and record-keeping.” 

It also offers other fields that can be customized accordingly. At EHR giant Epic, the company released software updates related to the COVID-19 vaccine. The updates are automated scheduling of follow-up appointments, decision support tools, COVID-19 vaccine analytics, and more. 

Furthermore, patients can share their immunization strategies and post-vaccination questionnaires with their employers, providers, and other healthcare organizations. 

The vendors are updating several tools and tracking tones of vaccine administrations. Health systems are identifying patient populations for vaccination based on risk factors and occupation. They are also using Mychart to communicate with patients. 

Also, patients can use the same to receive reminders for doses. The healthcare providers can use EPIC to track potential side effects and other indicators. Epic also shares vaccine administration data electronically with the local immunization system and public health agencies. 

Several Factors Would Be Considered While Preparing Vaccines

Meditech said it views vaccine distribution while considering the importance of patient safety. Waters of Meditech said, 

“Our approach is to remain agile, as there are a number of factors to consider, including the different vaccine manufacturers, eligibility phases by state, whether the patient is known or unknown to a facility, whether the patient has comorbidities and risk factors, and where the vaccine will be administered.” 

She further added, 

“Vaccine distribution requires careful collaboration across all venues of care, as well as across all distribution sites across the community. We understand that vaccine administration is not a one-size-fits-all approach, so we’re preparing our customers for a variety of scenarios.” 

Clinicians are benefitted from clinical decision support systems, which help patients who are at high-risk or with any pre-existing conditions. The physicians can see EHR data, including allergies and medications, to identify risk based on guidelines. 

Waters explained they are also providing a web-based mobile solution to support the COVID-19 immunization without medical records on file. This is important for high vaccination sites, where a patient is unaware of the health system. 

As the vaccine will be distributed in two doses, it is important to track and share which dose was given and when. Meditech is allowing its clients to track vaccine distribution across its EHR and to communicate distribution details with third-party sources. She said, 

“As per CDC guidelines, our system will produce a certificate as proof of the individual’s vaccination to present as required.”

Murry of NextGen Healthcare said most users do not require training, as the workflow is similar to the work process they are having for vaccination management. 

“The key difference will be new specific COVID-19 coding. Tracking would need to be improved to strip out, document and record only COVID-19 vaccination information for transmission to the CDC. We are working toward making the first system changes that allow documentation of vaccine administration with the new CPT/CVX codes available to our clients as soon as possible.” 

Final Words

Every EHR vendor is meeting with constituents and prioritizing a plan for any situation. The healthcare industry is serving several patients simultaneously and working for a better patient delivery experience. 

EHR vendors are allowing providers to improve efficiency and to meet their business goals. It is also reducing costs, improving safety, and minimizing duplication of testing. 
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