As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, we are reminded of the speed and power with which communicable diseases travel. Our government is one that has structures — like the CDC and FDA — in place to help contain diseases and protect citizens from the threat they carry. However, the CDC cannot work alone. Unlike with the 20th century Polio outbreak that claimed the lives of more than 2,700 Americans, certain contemporary technologies are here to help keep contain the disease. The presence and use of digital patient information is perhaps more valuable than ever, which is why Iron Bridge — a leader in healthcare integration — is here to share information about how patient information can be put to use during a crisis, disaster, or pandemic.
Why is digital information important during a crisis?
Utilizing Digitized Health Information and Healthcare Integration
When we think about healthcare integration, we are frequently referring to interoperability on a relatively small scale: within a practice, hospital network, or between a hospital and localized vendors and patients. However, this network becomes indefinitely larger in the case of pandemic and disaster, challenging contemporary EHRs to work their hardest for the public good.
When we speak of crises, we’re referring to more than an outbreak of COVID-19 (colloquially known as the coronavirus). Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, and floods can lead to a large-scale casualty or, in some cases, damage to a hospital that requires patient removal. Additionally, in mass casualty incidents like acts of terrorism, patients from across the country and globe can be affected and in need of medical attention.
Prior to EHRs, health records were inaccessible or difficult to access. Contemporary EHRs are designed with ease of communication and integration in mind. During times of crisis, the ability to centralize data and make it accessible to the necessary personnel is unbelievably valuable. With interoperability, not only is this data communication as simple as possible, but the data is made tangible quickly and without sacrificing patient confidentiality.
How Healthcare Integration Helps Keep the World Healthy
Public Health Registries
Particularly useful in the case of COVID-19, public health registries help assess risk and make it easier for public health officials to begin disease containment. EHRs that are directly integrated with a public health registry makes it easy for doctors to communicate the information — like symptoms and the location of the patient — with the CDC and, if applicable, the FDA.
From there, the officials are able to better understand the size and scope of the disease at hand. They can define risk factors — like being near certain cities or the use of public transportation — to help keep the remainder of the public safe.
Before registries were connected to EHRs with integration capabilities, communicating information regarding infection with the necessary officials required more time-consuming steps. However, now healthcare providers can focus on serving the patient population faster because less time is spent making sure patients are properly registered.
Electronic Medical Records
The reason that healthcare integration is so valuable during outbreak and crisis is that an unbelievable amount of value stems from making data accessible. Rather than the use of paper medical records from decades ago, electronic medical records make it easier to share and record medical information faster and further than ever before.
This is invaluable because in times of crisis people are not always near home. People may be traveling elsewhere or quarantined during a pandemic, leading them to need to see healthcare providers that are not their local in-network providers.
Healthcare integration ensures that medical records are secure and accessible from more places than ever before, helping doctors to never miss a beat when it comes to providing thorough, effective treatment.
In addition to patients being away from an in-network hospital, sometimes disasters occur that put the hospitals themselves out of commission. Instead of losing patient records or not being able to communicate them easily to another hospital, healthcare integration makes it easy to keep health information safe and communicable to other places when needed.
During an outbreak or pandemic, time is of the essence. Diseases spread easily when not properly contained, meaning there are often more people contaminated than can be treated before they spread it to the next person.
In the case of a viral pandemic, vaccines are often created more than a year after the initial onset of the disease due to rigorous FDA testing and, simply put, the fact that making a vaccine isn’t a walk in the park.
On top of vaccines, diagnostic tools must be created quickly. Without an understanding of the virus itself gathered from those who are known to have it, researchers are unable to properly and effectively develop diagnostic tools.
Healthcare integration makes it easier to communicate medical information with researchers for the sake of improving global outcomes. Researchers, with this information, can understand risk factors, effective treatment plans, and patterns that can help bring them closer to getting the disease under control.
Healthcare integration goes beyond making the lives of physicians easier. With digitized health records and interoperability, we’re able to create a healthier world. Get in touch with the team at Iron Bridge today to learn more about how integration can help you do the same.