The benefits of electronic health records (EHRs) may become more widely available to children through an EHR format for children's health care announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Growing use of EHRs continues to improve the quality and safety of health care in the United States, but many existing EHR systems are not tailored to capture or process health information about children. The EHR format for children's health care announced today includes recommendations for child-specific data elements such as vaccines and functionality that will enable EHR developers to broaden their products to include modules tailored to children's health.
"Health care for children is a calling that carries special challenges," said AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D. "This new children's EHR format will help software developers meet the needs of health care providers for children by combining best practices in clinical care, information technology and the contributions of health care providers who treat children every day."
The children's EHR format was authorized by the 2009 Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) and developed by AHRQ and CMS. The format is intended to improve care for children, including those enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), by guiding EHR developers to understand the types of information that should be included in EHRs for children. The format is designed for EHR developers and providers who wish to augment existing systems with additional features or to build new EHR systems for the care of children.
The format includes a minimum set of data elements and applicable data standards that can be used as a blueprint for EHR developers seeking to create a product that can capture the types of health care components most relevant for children. Child-specific data elements and functionality recommendations are sorted into topic areas that include prenatal and newborn screening tests, immunizations, growth data, information for children with special health care needs and child abuse reporting. The EHR format provides guidance on structures that permit interoperable exchange of data, including data collected in school-based, primary and inpatient care settings. The format is compatible with other EHR standards and facilitates quality measurement and improvement through the collection of clinical quality data.