Using Occupation and Industry Information to Better Serve Your Patient PopulationPosted on by
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Conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. On average, American workers spend close to half their waking hours at work. As a result, work can have significant impacts on health.
As electronic health records (EHRs) are replacing paper medical records in most healthcare environments, making sure these records have all the essential information to serve a patient population is a key step in EHR implementation.
At the patient level, healthcare providers can use information about their patients’ work to provide the most appropriate care. At the population level, healthcare organizations can use work information to identify groups of patients who may be at risk for harmful exposures or health problems, or who may benefit from specific interventions. This information can also be used to support case reporting and disease registries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) EHR Working Group seeks to ensure that the patient work information most pertinent to patient care and population health is included in EHRs in a useful and retrievable manner.
As part of a pilot project to demonstrate the usefulness and feasibility of incorporating occupation and industry information into an electronic health record reporting system, a Massachusetts community health care system found that they were serving a high volume of Portuguese-speaking patients. More than half of the women worked as maids or housecleaners and the most common job for the men was maintenance or construction painter. As a result of access to this information, doctors were better able to serve their patient population by providing materials in their preferred language and information regarding risks associated with their patients’ occupations. The organization also took this as an opportunity to educate staff on the findings and how to use this information to inform patient care.
As a part of the workgroup’s effort to underscore the importance of incorporating occupation and industry into EHR platforms, NIOSH is collecting information from public health, care providers and care organizations, and patients on how occupation and industry information may impact their work or their care.
The NIOSH EHR workgroup is requesting examples of how work information has been or would be used in an EHR or health information system to better improve the health of patients or a population. Uses of work information might include helping to accurately diagnose and treat a patient; improving the management of a chronic disease; summarizing information to make important connections between work and health at the population level (e.g., listing all the individuals in a practice who work as house painters); or discovering trends that inform public health or preventive communications. You can visit our website to review examples and submit your information!
Debbie Hoyer, MPH, is a Public Health Advisor in the NIOSH Global Collaborations Program.
Nicole Edwards, MS, is a Technical Information Specialist in the NIOSH Respiratory Health Division.
Christina Socias-Morales, DrPH, is an Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.