Electronic Health Records Shown to Boost HPV Vaccination Rates in New Study

There can be little debate these days over whether electronic health records or electronic medical records are part of the future of medicine. It’s hard to gather up-to-the-moment data, but we know that as of 2001, only 18% of office-based physicians used EHR or EMR software; as of 2011, that figure had risen to 55%, and by 2013, it was at 78%. Basic EHR adoption went up 21% between 2012 and 2013 alone.

The debate, now, is what exactly medical software companies should be focusing on in terms of the capabilities of these EHRs, and how they can be tied into other medical software systems for better overall efficiency and patient health. What might those changes look like in practice? One recent study looking at HPV vaccination rates provides a perfect example of how the various features incorporated into EHRs by medical software companies can make a difference.

Study Details

A study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine this month wanted to see how different EHR systems could be used to affect vaccination rates for human papillomavirus, or HPV. For the study, the research team divided 15,000 patients into two groups. Half of those patients were treated by healthcare providers whose EHRs included alerts about HPV vaccination opportunities; the other half were treated by providers whose EHRs did not include that function.

Study Findings

It appears that the alerts were extremely successful in improving vaccination rates. The patients of providers receiving alerts were more likely both to begin the series of HPV vaccine injections and to complete them; patients aged 9-18 were three times as likely to start and 10 times more likely to complete the vaccinations, and patients aged 19-26 were six times as likely to start and eight times more likely to finish. Moreover, the alerts were especially effective in increasing the vaccination rate for African-Americans, who have been less likely in general to get the vaccine up to this point.

“We found that simply alerting patients and providers during an office appointment increased uptake and completion of the HPV vaccine series,” lead author Mack Ruffin IV, a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, said. “Our findings suggest that these prompts through the electronic health system may be a valuable tool in encouraging more people to protect themselves from cancer.”

The full study has been published online for free under the title “Impact of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) Reminder on Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Initiation and Timely Completion,” so you can check it out if you’re interested.


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