Electronic health records play an important role in promoting public health, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's 2010 Update conference.
EHR systems can be key tools within the six key areas targeted by the CDC for seeking substantial improvements in the health status of Americans, he said. The targeted areas of improvement are food, healthcare-associated infections, HIV, motor vehicle injuries, teen health and tobacco control, Frieden said.
For example, EHR systems can allow patients and doctors to better know when and how much care is needed at a given, using things such as e-mail reminders. “If we want people to do things, we should make it easier,” but that's not how the healthcare system works, he said.
In order to better integrate EHRs into public health, he urged the audience of health IT professionals to involve public health officials in their development and use. “The next step is to ensure that all of you work with public health entities” in your communities and states, Frieden told them. The Institute of Medicine recently issued a report that among other things calls for better public health data collection.