Community health centers embrace EHRs, collect occupational health info

Community health centers are making significant progress in adopting electronic health records, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Of the 1,202 federally funded centers, almost four-fifths (87.8 percent) report using EHRs at all of their sites. Only 4.2 percent (50 grantees) do not use an EHR. Almost all of them (99.9 percent) have patient history, demographics and clinical notes functionalities, while 98.6 percent have computerized physician order entry (CPOE) for lab tests. However, only 28.1 percent report that their eligible providers have received Medicare or Medicaid Meaningful Use incentive payments.

More than 62 percent of the grantees' patients are racial/ethnic minorities and almost 35 percent are uninsured. Community health centers are the largest provider of healthcare to the undeserved in the U.S.

In a related blog post, Kerry Souza--an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health--and Michael Wittie--of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT--report that the health centers were collecting patients' work-related information in their EHRs.

"Even before these data are routinely available in EHRs, health centers will undoubtedly continue to lead the way in bridging occupational health and primary care, and in using EHRs to help meet their patients' needs," they write.

They also note that several pilot projects are underway to include work-related data in EHRs.

EHRs have been found to help reduce health disparities for underserved populations; legislators are among those that have recommended that Stage 3 of Meaningful Use be used as a vehicle to reduce such disparities further. It also has been suggested that electronically collecting and handling occupational health information could also help reduce health disparities.

To learn more:
- read the data brief
- here's the blog post