Electronic Health Records May Be Delaying COVID-19 Vaccinations



Employees at an pressing care facility in Woodbridge, Va., test well being information whereas testing sufferers for COVID-19 on April 15, 2020.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photographs

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photographs

Employees at an pressing care facility in Woodbridge, Va., test well being information whereas testing sufferers for COVID-19 on April 15, 2020.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photographs

Why has it been so exhausting to get a COVID-19 vaccination? One motive will be the software program that the majority medical information within the U.S. are constructed on.

It makes up the techniques nurses and docs kind sufferers’ very important indicators and prescriptions into — whether or not they’re getting a routine bodily or going to the emergency room with a damaged arm.

And it is the identical kind of program used to log affected person knowledge when COVID-19 photographs are given. However these digital well being information usually aren’t linked and do not share data simply.

That is making it troublesome to line up a vaccine appointment, hold observe of negative effects and ensure vaccines are being distributed equitably and effectively, says Dr. Bob Kocher, who suggested the state of California on COVID-19 testing.

“Digital well being information are the instruments that docs use to take notes on affected person care, to share data with different docs, to trace your lab outcomes, to order prescriptions,” he says. “They’re actually the workflow software program that well being care suppliers use.”

However this sharing is “not executed fairly often and it is solely executed actually when a affected person requests for it to occur,” says Kocher, who helped form the Reasonably priced Care Act underneath the Obama administration. He is additionally a accomplice on the enterprise capital agency Venrock.

Disconnected techniques require sufferers to formally request that their medical data be despatched from one physician’s workplace to a different. And even then, Kocher says, “that data would not move” to all of a affected person’s caregivers.

“In actuality, hospitals are much more like banks or retail shops,” he says. “They do not need to share data as a result of they’re anxious that sufferers would possibly truly go to a different location and get their care.”

There are over 1,000 totally different digital well being file techniques within the U.S., and virtually each hospital and clinic has a barely totally different system tailor-made to its personal wants, Kocher says.

As states scramble to get thousands and thousands of doses of the coronavirus vaccines into folks’s arms, disconnected information techniques are getting in the best way.

Many vaccine distribution websites use their very own digital techniques for scheduling, making it troublesome for folks to seek out and join vaccine appointments effectively.

If the ability the place you bought your first dose has gotten too busy, the techniques could make it robust to arrange a second appointment at a special place. “There isn’t any approach in the present day to share throughout the techniques simply that you simply received your first shot of a vaccine in a single location, then received the second at one other location,” Kocher says.


These digital techniques are additionally hampering scientists making an attempt to gather vital knowledge concerning the vaccines.

“We do not understand how lengthy safety lasts from the vaccines,” Kocher says. The Meals and Drug Administration is making an attempt to gather details about antagonistic reactions or subsequent COVID-19 infections through a separate portal, however some practitioners aren’t utilizing it.

And not using a central knowledge administration system, Kocher says, scientists might be left at midnight about what may be taking place if even a small proportion of vaccinated folks turn into contaminated with COVID-19. He says vital questions might be troublesome to reply: “Did the vaccine put on off? Was it a special pressure? And did they’ve any negative effects?”

Many states and counties desperately need knowledge on the race and ethnicity of people that’ve been vaccinated to ensure the restricted provide is reaching hard-hit communities equitably. However not all digital well being techniques gather race and ethnicity knowledge on sufferers.

Kocher says including new options to software program to enhance the vaccination rollout would not be simple.

“Digital well being information are very like old school software program that exist in your native laptop,” he says. “They are not within the cloud. … You truly should go to every totally different well being care location and open up the again door the place the server is and set up it manually.”

The problems with digital well being information aren’t new. Kocher says the staff engaged on the Reasonably priced Care Act did not go far sufficient to repair the issue.

“We created requirements for knowledge sharing so that you could securely share data throughout the information,” he says. “The problem has been that the docs and hospitals who use them have not had nice causes to activate these options.” Sharing is not executed routinely, partly for privateness and safety causes.

Kocher hopes that the issues digital information are posing for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines would possibly lastly result in higher knowledge sharing throughout the well being care system, to assist sufferers.

“I feel that we will see the CDC make actually compelling arguments that we’ve to get higher at a minimum of sharing vital components of the digital well being file,” he says. “So possibly not all the things, however it should be essential for our nationwide safety and security to know: how lengthy are these vaccines offering safety, when are folks beginning to get COVID once more, are there antagonistic occasions?”


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