Joint CDC-ACS patient safety initiative to rely heavily on EHRs

A new collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to prevent surgical site infections (SSIs) and other adverse outcomes intends to maximize the use of electronic health records for collecting and submitting SSI data to their patient safety networks.

"It's clear that our national health system is seeking better ways to measure quality care," Clifford Y. Ko, director of the ACS Division of Research and Optimal Patient Care, which administers ACS' National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP), said in a statement. "Better data makes it possible because it creates more opportunities to improve the care hospitals and providers offer their patients."

The partnership is intended to close gaps between direct patient care and public health. EHRs will help the two organizations collect "the right data in the right way" to maximize patient safety, according to ACS' announcement. The initiative also will work to standardize SSI definitions and the data to be reported.

This standardization appears to be sorely needed. A study released by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine last month noted that SSIs could be reduced if there were a national uniform way to report them to public health agencies. The report also found that accurate reporting of SSI data could inexpensively reduce the number of SSIs.

The CDC/ACS partnership also comes on the heels of last month's report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which recommended that primary care and public health work together to improve the health of individuals, communities and populations. That report recommended that agencies inventory healthcare databases to create a "consolidated platform for sharing and displaying local population health data" and specified that the CDC is one of the agencies that should be part of this kind of project.

The IOM specially referenced in the media briefing accompanying the report a project in New York that is using EHRs to improve the quality of primary care and generate public health data.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the IOM's briefing (.pdf)

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