Occupational Data for Health
Occupational Data for Health (ODH) is a way to standardize work information in electronic health records (EHRs). It can help individual clinicians and healthcare organizations to better recognize, treat, and prevent work-related health conditions. Implementing ODH will also provide public health departments with valuable information that they can use to improve public health. Learn more about how ODH can improve patients’ healthcare and public health.
On average, U.S. workers spend close to half their waking hours at work where they can encounter a wide range of hazards that can have a profound impact on their health. What we do for work also affects our health outside of work in many ways. These include take-home issues such as work-related stress and what we can afford to spend on items such as where we live, what we eat, recreation, and health care. Having patient work information readily available in EHRs will make it possible to better recognize relationships between work and health problems in individuals and populations.
Clinicians and healthcare organizations can use patient work information to improve patient care and, together with public health organizations, to improve public health. However, EHRs rarely contain standardized work information that can be used digitally to help clinicians care for patients and are interoperable with other information technology systems. Interoperability makes information easier to share across systems, such as with those used by public health departments. To solve this problem, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) worked with partners to develop ODH–an informatics solution to standardize work information collected in EHRs to improve patients’ healthcare and public health.
What is ODH?
ODH is a framework for self-reported, standardized patient work information that can be documented in EHRs. Examples of important work information in ODH include:
- Employment status
- Retirement dates
- Jobs (including the industry and occupation of each job)
- Usual or longest-held work (including the industry and occupation of longest-held work)
Although ODH provides a framework for standardized, interoperable recording of many types of work information, it is customizable because healthcare organizations can use it to record only the types of work information that they need.
ODH Success Story
In 2022, staff at an affiliated clinic in New Mexico collected occupation and industry information and used it to identify respiratory problems in patients working in the dairy industry. Nearly one-third of these patients had respiratory diagnoses. This information enabled the clinic to tailor preventive interventions such as vaccination campaigns for workers and their families. The clinic documented and shared lessons learned on collecting patient work information through a podcast and a video.
Through a cooperative agreement with the National Association of Community Health Centers, NIOSH is supporting three Health Center Controlled Networks to incorporate ODH in their EHRs. Health Center Controlled Networks are a collaborative network of health centers that leverage health information technology to enhance health outcomes by improving clinical and operational practices. The National Association of Community Health Centers has engaged the Health Center Controlled Networks to collect ODH at the point of care to improve clinical care, health center workflows, and analytics.
Join the Challenge!
The “Healthcare Data for Public Health Action Challenge” is an initiative for healthcare organizations to collect and electronically report case information including patient work information to public health agencies using the ODH framework. NIOSH is collaborating with other parts of CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories to support this effort.
For this initiative, healthcare organizations will collect information including:
- Employment status
- Industry and occupation for current job(s)
- Usual industry and occupation