EHR helps hospital identify lead problem in Michigan

Flint, Michigan-based Hurley Medical Center is crediting its electronic health record system with helping in the detection of unsafe lead levels in area children after the city changed its water supply, according to an article in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Hurley Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha decided to review the medical records of children whose blood had been tested at the hospital after hearing reports last fall that Flint's water contained more lead after the city began pulling water from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. It turns out that the river water was more corrosive, allowing more lead from the pipes to leach into the water.

Hanna-Attisha compared blood test results for the 736 Flint children under the age of 5 whose tests were performed at Hurley from January through September 2013, with test results for 737 children tested in the same time period in 2015. She found the percentage of children with elevated lead levels in their blood increased from 2.4 percent to 4.9 percent; in parts of the city with the highest lead levels, the percentage increased from 4 percent to 10.6 percent. 

Comparatively, a review of the blood tests in the EHRs of 2,000 children from outside the city, who were not affected by the change in water supply, had no statistically significant change in lead levels.

"If we did not have Epic, if we did not have [electronic medical records], if we were still on paper, it would have taken forever to get these results," Hanna-Attisha said, according to the article.

The hospital is also using its EHR system to place lead alerts in the childrens' EHRs so that they can be monitored over time.

EHRs have shown their effectiveness in identifying at-risk patients and in improving patient health. They also have the potential to thwart and handle medical and population health crises, if designed and used appropriately.

To learn more:
- read the article