US Immigration and Customs deploys EHR for detainees

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has finalized its implementation of a comprehensive, agency-wide electronic health records system to take care of the health of detainees held in its custody.

The system, which replaced several legacy systems and paper files, is now one of the largest and "most robust" EHR systems in the federal government, according to an ICE announcement. The EHR streamlines healthcare, reduces administrative burdens, enhances standardization of care, reduces legal liabilities, improves accuracy of health records and reduces errors.

ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) provide direct care to about 15,000 detainees in 22 facilities. The transition is expected to enable ICE to realize $2 million in annual cost avoidance, according to the announcement.

"The very nature of detainee healthcare requires sending medical information across different locations," Deanna Gephart, deputy assistant director of Operations for IHSC, said in the announcement. "Now that we have the capability to share data electronically, the detainee healthcare system is much more efficient, which translates into increased quality health care provided to detainees."

ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), enforces the federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety.

Interestingly, while DHS has an EHR for illegal immigrants being detained, it has no such system for its own workforce. It has been reported that DHS views health informatics and communication technology more as a tactical resource, but that this perspective is too narrow to meet DHS' current and future needs.

Some federal agencies, such as the Coast Guard, have already instituted EHRs for their employees. Other agencies adopted EHRs years ago and are now updating them. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is upgrading its VistA EHR system for veterans and the Department of Defense is in the process of accepting bids for the modernization of its EHR system; that contract is expected to be worth $11 billion to the winning bidder(s).

To learn more:
- here's the announcement