Electronic Health Record (EHR)-Based Community Health Measures: An Exploratory Assessment of Perceived Usefulness by Local Health Departments

Posted on 2018-05-22 - 05:00
Abstract Background Given the widespread adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems in health care organizations, public health agencies are interested in accessing EHR data to improve health assessment and surveillance. Yet there exist few examples in the U.S. of governmental health agencies using EHR data routinely to examine disease prevalence and other measures of community health. The objective of this study was to explore local health department (LHD) professionals’ perceptions of the usefulness of EHR-based community health measures, and to examine these perceptions in the context of LHDs’ current access and use of sub-county data, data aggregated at geographic levels smaller than county. Methods To explore perceived usefulness, we conducted an online survey of LHD professionals in Indiana. One hundred and thirty-three (133) individuals from thirty-one (31) LHDs participated. The survey asked about usefulness of specific community health measures as well as current access to and uses of sub-county population health data. Descriptive statistics were calculated to examine respondents’ perceptions, access, and use. A one-way ANOVA (with pairwise comparisons) test was used to compare average scores by LHD size. Results Respondents overall indicated moderate agreement on which community health measures might be useful. Perceived usefulness of specific EHR-based community health measures varied by size of respondent’s LHD [F(3, 88) = 3.56, p = 0.017]. Over 70% of survey respondents reported using community health data, but of those < 30% indicated they had access to sub-county level data. Conclusion Respondents generally preferred familiar community health measures versus novel, EHR-based measures that are not in widespread use within health departments. Access to sub-county data is limited but strongly desired. Future research and development is needed as LHD staff gain access to EHR data and apply these data to support the core function of health assessment.


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