A TOOLKIT FOR HEALTH DEPARTMENTS
The purpose of this toolkit is to help professionals working in local, state, and territorial health departments have better access to the electronic health record (EHR) systems in healthcare facilities (e.g. hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgical centers, etc.) during outbreaks, including outbreaks of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Public health and healthcare share a common goal of preventing, detecting, and controlling diseases, but they have different critical roles. Public health agencies have the responsibility to communicate with relevant authorities and stakeholders, including healthcare facilities, to ensure an appropriate and rapid response during outbreak situations with complete transparency. Interactions between public health officials and healthcare facilities are essential for protecting and improving the health of patients during any outbreak, including an HAI outbreak.
Outbreak investigations help public health and healthcare better understand the cause of the outbreak, get a clear clinical picture of patients who are or who may be affected (actual and potential cases), and stop the spread of the disease so that fewer people get sick or die.
When healthcare facilities provide public health professionals with timely access to their EHRs, they help ensure that case determinations and the outbreak investigation proceeds most efficiently. Additionally, since EHRs are used by more than 60 percent of hospitals and office based physicians, and these numbers are expected to grow, it is critical for public health and healthcare professionals to have proactive conversations about how access to EHRs can occur and how they can work together to protect and improve the health of patients.
Currently, electronic health information is not standardized and interoperability is not universal. As a result, we know that EHR access differs depending on the type of EHR system or software used. Many public health departments still rely on a combination of types of information exchanges including onsite computer access, remote access, paper printouts, and faxed and email copies to get needed patient health information.
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This toolkit provides examples of best practices and quotes, and resources based on experiences and perspectives from public health stakeholders, through health department staff interviews, steering committee member meetings, and input from the project team. This toolkit is not intended to serve as legal advice. We recommend seeking the advice of an attorney or other qualified professional with questions regarding the application of law to a specific circumstance.
This toolkit is organized into six sections:
● Building and sustaining relationships between your public health department and healthcare facilities
● Addressing patient privacy, authority, and security concerns
● Sharing best practices for accessing and using electronic health records
● Linking to national resources for improving information exchange
● Glossary of key terms
Tools for Health Departments
Interviews with public health professionals and meetings with stakeholders were used to better understand experiences and gather examples about access to and use of EHRs during HAI outbreaks. View the methodology »
Glossary of Key Terms
A list of key terms used in this toolkit with accompanying definitions. View the glossary »