Electronic Health Records

Policy & Regulation News

ACOEM: Include occupational data in EHRs during Stage 3 MU

By Jennifer Bresnick

- The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), which represents more than 4,000 physicians, urged the ONC to consider including data about occupational hazards and work capacity in the requirements for Stage 3 Meaningful Use. In response to the open comment period about Stage 3 regulations, ACOEM addressed a letter to Dr. Farzad Mostashari asking the ONC to collect work-related data as EHR requirements continue to expand and change.

“Approximately 140 million Americans are employed. Their health can affect their ability to work safely and productively and, in turn, their jobs can affect their health.  A basic knowledge of a worker’s job duties and hazards can be invaluable to all physicians in order to recognize and treat work‐related conditions and to prevent injury and illness in other workers,” states Dr. Karl Auerbach, President of ACOEM.

While public comments by the AHA, AMA, and CHIME asked the ONC to slow down or reduce the number of requirements involved in attesting to Stage 3, ACOEM would like providers to collect additional information during their patient consults with the aim of “improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs of health care; reducing health disparities; improving population health; and providing the nation a productive workforce.”

Dr. Auerbach believes that treating asthma, for example, without knowing what workplace triggers may be contributing to the disease, is ignoring critically important data that could help reduce or eliminate symptoms and save the time and cost of ongoing medications or hospitalizations.

The association’s suggestions include providing a disability status code within the EHR, along with the capability to transmit the patient’s status directly to insurance programs.  Adding such data to the patient’s problem list can aid insurance companies and worker compensation programs to provide necessary benefits to a disabled patient in a timely manner.  ACOEM asserts that the information can be easily incorporated with the use of V-codes in ICD-9 or Z-codes in ICD-10.

“ACOEM acknowledges that some providers may initially find it burdensome to comply with all of the criteria,” the letter concedes, but reiterates that “work status, as recorded in an occupation and industry code, is important for essentially all medical specialties involved in the care of adult patients.  Collection of basic industry and occupational information in all medical settings is feasible and can be accomplished by administrative personnel without increasing the burden of clinicians.”

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