EHR functionalities for public health

Public health departments need the support of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) to meet their many needs, like reporting, billing, clinical documentation, and adhering to state and local requirements. A comprehensive EHR solution can make all the difference so that you can do what you do best: providing essential healthcare to the community members you serve. Learn more about the top six things public health departments need in an EHR solution. 

1. Immunizations Workflow

For the majority of public health departments in the United States today, immunizations are a top priority. An EHR immunization workflow can allow providers functionalities to view patient histories, access specific immunization reports, and administer vaccines. These tools allow patient information to move seamlessly throughout your EHR, eliminating duplicate entries and eventually assisting in billing workflows as well. 

When your EHR syncs to a state’s Immunization Registry, or a Nationwide Health Information Network, which can interface with immunization registries and more, you receive timely access to relevant immunization data, like child immunizations. This connection helps your staff save time and effort when checking for the full immunization history of a patient to see if it’s appropriate to give a vaccine. This is also helpful when tracking data like local outbreaks and for state reporting.

An ideal EHR will keep track of vaccine inventory by funding source (VFC, 317, or private) and clinic sites. Through a barcode scanning functionality, your staff will find inventory input and dispensing quick and easy. No more reading the small print on vaccines! Along with those functionalities, a web-based solution with all the information you need to see on one screen is perfect for use in your health department, off-site, or in remote clinics. Lastly, auto calculation of billing admin codes and a maintained Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) will cut down data entry time for nurses. 

EHR reporting

2. Reporting

There are many reports needed for public health organizations that are submitted annually for grant funding and to meet state regulations. Often these reports can be time-consuming and burdensome on office and clinic staff and require a high level of detail on patient and financial information. Your EHR can include these custom forms and reports to make generating them a breeze. Data can be recorded electronically in a structured format by an EHR and then carried through the system in a seamless manner to auto-populate these forms and reports for you. 

Examples of these types of reports include the Family Planning Annual Report (FPAR) and Maternal and Child Health reports for Title V. FPAR/FPAR 2.0 data can be presented both in summary form (which protects the confidentiality of those who receive Title X-funded services) or in graphs/tables by a robust EHR system. Maternal and Child Health reports for Title V can also be easily downloadable in some EHR solutions. These tables consist of statistical data and detailed patient information to document care plans from prenatal to child health.

Lastly, some health departments need to track where their time is being spent, from specific programs to job codes, for reporting purposes. Choosing an EHR vendor that allows users to easily record the task or programs they are working on lets them track their efforts in real-time. Timesheet templates can also be utilized for various reports. Let your EHR do the heavy lifting for you by taking advantage of a solution that populates reports based on your data. 

3. Integrated Billing

To automate workflow for your staff and improve billing efficiency, a must-have EHR functionality is integrated billing. This web-based service reduces duplicate data entry while increasing

reimbursements with seamless billing.

Integrated billing software can be proven effective if it is flexible enough to serve many types of health organizations that provide various services. It must be able to send and receive data from payers through a secure, HIPAA-compliant format. Accelerated payment cycles come from timely patient statements through billing software that can be configured to meet your organization’s needs.  A comprehensive billing solution should allow your health department to increase cash flow by billing to and receiving reimbursements from Medicaid and other commercial payers.

A billing tool integrated into your EHR can assist your staff in collections management as they follow up on all accounts payable. Collection reports can easily come right to your staff, directly from your billing functionality, and can be forwarded to a collections agency. Your staff can also benefit from Electronic Super Bills, or ESBs. They come from encounter notes captured in your EHR system and allow your staff to quickly review/audit all service charges in one central place.

EHR billing

4. Referral Orders

In order to make sure every patient is accounted for and provided with whole-person care, a referral orders functionality allows you to link to common community provider resources and track a referral from the first point of contact through the treatment process and discharge.  Communication with other health entities is needed for some patients to receive the care they need, and a tool that tracks outbound referrals through their complete lifecycle is critical. Some EHRs allow you to track referrals by status as well as scheduled follow-up time frames right from your dashboard, along with included form builders and consent forms. 

Users can also set a follow-up ticker to keep track internally of when a patient should be followed up on. This functionality is necessary for busy health departments that need to confirm critical health treatments are provided to their patients. In some EHRs, these orders can also be assigned to another staff member for efficient processing. 

5. Caseload Management

Health departments often struggle to view and track no-shows, cancellations, and authorization due dates. To limit wasted time and effort, and assist in clinic reporting, an important tool for your public health EHR is the ability to see patient caseloads. This allows providers and staff to easily manage any assigned patients and upcoming tasks for clear tracking and management. 

EHR functionalities that include referrals at pre-admission to notifications of critical document due dates and authorization expirations can truly make the difference between successful and unsuccessful outcomes and audits. Tracking last-seen dates as well as no-show rates and other critical items will allow your providers to see where to effectively direct their attention. Some EHRs will also allow for a supervisor to utilize different filters to track program census numbers as well as keep an eye on staff that may be falling behind. It is essential for proper checks and balances.

Some EHR providers even allow this tool to be personalizable for your department’s needs, by making it possible to change which columns are displayed. Some also allow supervisors to view each staff’s caseload by program and status. Having the ability to manage a clinical caseload is essential to making sure everything gets done in a timely manner and no patients “get left behind”. 

EHR tracking tool

6. Communicable Disease Tracking and Treatment

Core EHR workflow components to treat communicable diseases include testing, assessment, care planning, treatment adherence notes, and intervention and recovery plans, all incorporated into your EHR. For example, care for HIV-positive and other STD/STI-positive patients will have templates and forms for each case. These functionalities should also adhere to state requirements, connect to many payers, and have a fully-integrated billing system to omit dual entry. 

Tuberculosis (TB) treatment is another communicable disease that is essential for public health departments to address in their communities, as TB is extremely contagious and kills thousands each year. Some EHRs can tailor the workflow of tracking, testing, and treatment for your staff. It can also prompt staff of active cases, manage medications, and track the reactions patients have to those medications. The best TB EHR tools will also document contact tracing and DOT (Directly Observed Therapy) for local health departments. It should assist in the complete workflow of both TB and LTBI and allow users to chart lab/x-ray orders and results, medication orders, drug reactions, sputum collection records, records of TB contacts, and more.

Additional Considerations

In summary, public health departments need specific functionalities for an EHR to meet their needs. A robust solution will extend far beyond technology to meet your goals as an organization today– it will also support the vision of Public Health 3.0 and the future of public health in your community. Multi-system interoperability, various connections with state and local systems, and interfaces to support community health are more important than ever before. In addition to shopping for these top 6 public health EHR functionalities, look for a vendor that supports whole-person care through continuous development to meet the needs of the adapting healthcare field.

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health’s integrated EHR, Practice Management, and Billing solution is designed to improve departmental workflows using apps and cloud-based technology. Our company was founded with a focus on providing technology solutions with highly referenceable customer service. We collaborate with public and behavioral health organizations to develop advanced features,  empowering them to improve the well-being of their communities. Our federally-certified software enables our customers to achieve their desired health outcomes. We serve those who serve others. If you’d like more information about our solutions, contact us today.