CDC's occupational safety branch wants work-related info in EHRs

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (NIOSH) is seeking comments from the public to help it determine whether and how patients' work-related information should be captured in electronic health records.

According to NIOSH's Federal Register notice, the comments will be used to assist with planning and activities to respond to a report published last year by the Institute of Medicine on the subject. It acknowledges that work-related information is not captured in most EHRs, and when it is, it's not standardized or converted to structured data, thus limiting the ability to use it for clinical decision making and public health surveillance.

 "NIOSH is working to ensure that EHRs will contribute to improvements in individual and population health by meeting the need to support occupational considerations during clinical care and by enhancing public health professional's understanding of work-related conditions so they can identify effective treatment and prevention strategies," the group explains.

NIOSH specifically asks providers to comment on whether and how they asked about or used patients' work-related information--such as when they ask patients about their work, where in the EHR they would put the information, if the EHR system maintains a history of the information, who collects the information, and how the information affects care provided. 

It also asks EHR vendors to comment, asking such questions as whether their products include fields for such inquiries, and how they would support this information.

Comments are due by August 27, 2012.

The IOM issues reports on a myriad of health issues, such as patient safety, obesity and vaccines, and makes recommendations to the applicable federal agencies for follow up.

To learn more:
- here's the Federal Register notice
- read the IOM's report on occupational health and EHRs