EHRs can increase routine testing for HIV

Electronic health records can help increase testing of patients for HIV and identify previously unknown cases of the disease, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended since 2006 that most patients ages 13 through 64 be routinely screened for HIV infection, many providers do not do so. Researchers found that initiatives launched by two different providers relying on EHRs to increase the testing did grow the number of patients tested and ultimately diagnosed with the illness, according to the study.

A number of studies have shown that EHRs are an effective tool for screening purposes, identifying potential problems earlier and more thoroughly.

A new program instituted by Urban Health Plan, a Federally Qualified Health Center in New York City, implemented a program that provides HIV educational materials to patients who had not been tested in the past year, offers to test them for HIV and documents the offer in the EHR. As a result, HIV testing increased from 8 percent to 56 percent; 140 patients were found to have HIV and 120 of them were referred for treatment.

A similar program launched at Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans offered HIV testing to urgent care center and emergency department (ED) patients who had not been tested in the past six months and documented the offer in the EHR. The percentage of patients tested rose from 17 percent in the ED and 3 percent in the UCC to 26 percent and 17 percent, respectively; 102 patients tested positive, including 91 who hadn't received HIV care previously.

Interactive alerts from a clinical decision-support system improved care and outcomes for HIV patients more than static alerts, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in December 2012.

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