The 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act continued a number of federal rules to cut costs and improve quality of care — including the use of electronic health records. The records, or EHRs, upon approval were to be implemented in stages by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to “reduce paperwork and administrative burdens” and “reduce medical errors.”

Occupation and industry elements in EHRs would provide healthcare providers with critical information to guide treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of the both work-related and non-work-related health conditions.

APHA’s Occupational Health and Safety Section

The agency’s “Stage 3” recommendations call for data on a patient’s occupation, industry, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status to be included in EHRs, beginning in 2016. In response to the agency’s request for comments, APHA’s Occupational Health and Safety Section and Asian Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health (APIC) submitted feedback on the recommendations this week.

The APHA Section expressed its support, stating that “incorporating occupational information in EHRs can improve public health surveillance, clinical medicine and population health.” Citing a 2012 policy statement, the Section discussed the importance of a healthy work environment in limiting exposures to physical, chemical and other health hazards.

“Occupation and industry elements in EHRs would provide healthcare providers with critical information to guide treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of the both work-related and non-work-related health conditions,” the Section stated.

The Caucus — APHA’s liaison to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities in the United States and associated jurisdictions — expressed both support and opposition of Stage 3 recommendations. It agreed that EHRs can create important public health benefits such as reducing disparities and promoting “culturally- and linguistically-competent” preventive care, but voiced concern that certain aspects of the new measures could promote cultural communication barriers.

“APIC supports the availability of patient materials in the verbal and written language that the patient and his or her family comprehends or understands,” the Caucus stated.

EHRs were first promoted in 2009 by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health. Read more about the records online.

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