EHRs improve identification, testing of infants at risk for Hep C

Using the features in an electronic health record can improve identification and follow up of infants born to mothers infected with Hepatitis C and at high risk of the disease themselves, according to a study published this month in the Pediatric Infections Disease Journal.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends Hepatitis C antibody testing for all exposed infants by the age of 18 months, most of them do not receive such testing. Researchers from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University and MetroHealth Center conducted a two-part study to determine if using their EHR would improve testing rates for high risk infants, first by retrospective review of medical records, and then by adding hepatitis testing to the EHR's problem list and electronic messaging the high risk infants' primary care physicians via the EHRs regarding the need to follow up and test for the disease. 

Researchers found that of the more than 67,000 births at the hospital during the study period, 280 were born to mothers with Hepatitis C. Adding the EHR functions increased the identification rate of these infants at higher risk from 53 percent to 71 percent, and follow up increased from 8 percent to 50 percent. It also resulted in the identification of five new Hepatitis C infected children, three of which previously had gone undiagnosed.

Pediatrics has not been a major focus of EHR vendors or the Meaningful Use program. However, EHRs are proving to be a boon in improving the health of children in a myriad of ways, such as increasing flu vaccination rates, improving screening rates for autism and detecting growth disorders.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract