Case Reporting: Helping Public Health “Turn Off the Fax Machines”
The massive expansion of electronic case reporting saves valuable time when it matters most
~70% of healthcare organizations use fax to send or receive care records.1
Diseases move fast, and electronic case reporting (eCR) is both quicker and easier to use than paper and faxes. It’s also more complete. eCR runs behind the scenes to automatically capture and report required information from health records. Because eCR comes from electronic health records that contain information on demographics, clinical outcomes, risk factors, and more, we can gain a better understanding of diseases as they’re happening, before it’s too late to act.
In early 2020, less than 200 healthcare facilities in the United States were capable of using eCR to relay critical case data to public health agencies. By 2022, CDC massively expanded the nationwide use of eCR, resulting in more than 22,000 healthcare facilities delivering automated, real-time case reports.
While there has been remarkable progress with eCR over the last year, these numbers still only represent about 23% of hospitals in the U.S. That means we still have an incredible amount of work ahead of us.
More than 27 million COVID-19 reports have been sent electronically from healthcare to public health agencies, each representing a report that a provider does not have to enter manually. eCR has also helped to close health equity gaps, as critical data regarding race and ethnicity are far more complete than through other reporting mechanisms.
In addition to supporting the fight against COVID, eCR is also used for other conditions, including foodborne illnesses like E. coli and noninfectious conditions like Parkinson’s disease, with the goal of expanding to all other reportable conditions.
On June 9, 2022, the collaborative eCR team began working with the electronic health record industry to support the mpox outbreak. In just four days, many healthcare facilities were able to send mpox patient case reports electronically to state and local public health agencies. As eCR is more fully adopted, it becomes possible for some facilities to finally “turn off the fax machines” for reporting cases.
Healthcare’s Use of eCR Widens
As of December 31, 2022, healthcare organizations have sent more than 27 million COVID-19 reports since the beginning of the pandemic.
The largest health centered control network in the country, OCHIN, started using eCR for 22,000 providers at over 1,000 healthcare delivery sites. The result was over 961,000 electronic reports generated, which ultimately translated into a potential 160,000 staff hours and $4.8 million saved over a 12-month period. eCR has allowed OCHIN, which reaches 45 states, to “turn off the fax machines” for COVID-19 reporting in 15 states and for some additional conditions in 5 states.