the benefits of electronic health surveillance

Apr 3, 2017 2:03:44 PM — by Jeff Donnell

According to recent news reports, surveillance has become pervasive, with mobile devices and smart TVs able to be used to track individual movements and record conversations. Some even assert that microwave ovens may be doing more than simply reheating our leftovers.

While the relative merits of this kind of high-tech electronic surveillance are hotly debated, there is little doubt regarding the value of workplace health surveillance. Yet employer health surveillance is still being tracked and managed by many organizations the old fashioned way — using a mix of paper, spreadsheets, homegrown databases, and narrow-purpose commercial applications.

Such an archaic approach in this day and age puts a significant burden on individuals responsible for ensuring compliance, especially given the costs associated with non-compliance and the inefficiencies of a manual approach.

The problem is compounded when surveillance information is managed in silos. When the same information must be entered in multiple locations, productivity goes down while the opportunity for data entry error and inconsistency goes up. Ensuring information currency across applications is difficult, and mining data for reporting and analytics purposes is challenging at best.

Electronic management of health surveillance on a single, integrated platform provides myriad benefits, starting with enrollment in surveillance panels. Ideally, an interface with the organization HR system will automate panel entry based on triggers including job role, function and location. With this approach, panel enrollment and de-enrollment can be updated regularly based on employee status in the HR system.

Health surveillance panels and panel actions, especially complex ones, are more easily managed electronically. When membership triggers vary based on factors like age, gender, and geography, manual errors can easily occur. The management of exceptions and esoteric triggers is more easily accomplished using electronic toolsets.

Once an employee is enrolled in surveillance panels, tracking due dates for required tests and exams is the next hurdle. While identifying who is due for what is simple enough, keeping track of who (and who has not) actually had those tests and exams by the required date on the calendar is no mean feat.

Again, technology can begin alerting individual employees well in advance to get clinic visits scheduled. If an employee fails to schedule an appointment (or worse yet, schedules and fails to show), the right application can generate reminders and alerts and task the appropriate individuals, including supervisors, to intervene. Technology can also be used to group multiple tests and exams into a single encounter — avoiding extra clinic visits and minimizing time off the job.

When an employee does show up for required surveillance visits, a fully-integrated electronic health record can be used to document the encounter, record results, and provide evidence that surveillance requirements were met, and the employee is certified to work. Everyone involved can be notified electronically — including the employee, the supervisor, and the individuals responsible for ensuring compliance. And when someone demands proof of the required audiogram, respirator fit test, or DOT physical — documentation can be produced in a matter of minutes with a few mouse clicks.

Ideally, health surveillance is all tracked and managed on a single, integrated platform. Data gets entered once and populates the right fields. Data is easily aggregated and reported upon. Those who need visibility (and are authorized) can get it, with everyone involved able to get a current view of where things stand by individual and across the enterprise.

Done correctly, compliance is achieved, fines are avoided, and those responsible for health surveillance are more productive.

   

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