NIOSH Thanks IOM, Review Panel for Review & Recommendations on Incorporating Occupational Information on Electronic Health Records


October 3, 2011
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser, (202) 245-0645

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today thanked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and a prestigious expert committee for reviewing the rationale and feasibility of incorporating occupational information in electronic health records, and for developing recommendations on next steps by NIOSH and other partners to achieve that goal.

The Sept. 29, 2011, letter report from the 11-member, IOM-commissioned committee, “Incorporating Occupational Information in Electronic Health Records,” responded to a NIOSH request for expert deliberation on this issue. The report is available from IOM at icon.

“As the review committee notes in its report, medical providers and others in the health-care community have rapidly increased their implementation and use of electronic health records, marking a historic transition from 20th Century paper records to 21st Century technologies,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

Dr. Howard noted, “This shift to electronic records holds tremendous promise for advancing the quality of health care, better focusing appropriate treatment, and significantly reducing the burden of new injury and disease by better targeting preventive efforts. Occupational information will be an important component for realizing that promise. At the same time, such linkages and systems must be secure, reliable, functional, and compatible. We will review the new report carefully and determine how to proceed with our partners in addressing both the opportunities and the questions.”

“After gathering and reviewing the available evidence, the committee concluded that occupational information could contribute to fully realizing the meaningful use of [electronic health records] in improving individual and population health care,” said David H. Wegman, M.D., Professor Emeritus, School of Health and Environment, University of Massachusetts, and chair of the Committee on Occupational Information and Electronic Health Records.

The report recommended that NIOSH and its partners:

  • Conduct demonstration projects to assess the collection and incorporation of information on occupation, industry, and work-relatedness in electronic health records.
  • Define the requirements and develop information models for storing and communicating occupational information.
  • Adopt Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) coding standards for use in electronic health records.
  • Assess the feasibility of autocoding occupational information collected in clinical settings.
  • Develop meaningful use metrics and performance measures.
  • Convene a workshop to assess ethical and privacy concerns and challenges associated with including occupational information in electronic health records.
  • Develop and test innovative methods for the collection of occupational information for linking to electronic health records (for example, direct entry of work history by patients through web portals or linkages to their personal health records).
  • Develop clinical decision-support logic, education materials, and return-to-work tools.
  • Develop and assess methods for collecting standardized exposure data for work-related health conditions.
  • Assess the impact, on meaningful-use goals, of incorporating occupational information into electronic health records.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. It was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. More information on NIOSH can be found at

Page last reviewed: October 3, 2011