Health IT

Children’s hospital pediatricians talk about health IT innovations for vaccines, asthma

antibody vaccineA pair of pediatricians from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recently talked about how they developed an innovative alert system for the provider’s electronic health records to improve population health and specifically to ensure parents get vaccines for their children when they need them. They’re also encouraging other providers to adopt the program.

Doctors Robert Grundmeier and Alexander Fiks at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at CHOP talked about the Care Assistant program at a recent health IT seminar at the Quorum at the University City Science Center. It was originally designed as a tool to do more precise decision-support projects to improve healthcare outcomes using the provider’s electronic health record system from Epic.

Care Assistant alerts physicians to any vaccinations children under 2 years old need and helps them give that information to parents in a way that easily fits into their workflow. Whenever any patient encounter is opened within an EHR for a child under 2 years old, physicians see a prominent alert for routine childhood vaccinations.

Grundmeier said the system has since been expanded to create a developmental screening tool to check for early signs of autism as well as a tool to manage the care of asthma. He added that a new feature for the care of premature infants is under development.


He admitted that expanding successful programs beyond the walls of the provider could be challenging. “There are a lot of barriers and moats to taking successful projects in our institution and opening them up to the wider world.”

Grundmeier said they offered to buy a latte for any provider who could find a mistake in the alert system and so far have only had to buy one.

Fiks explained that they get a lot of input from clinicians to help them fine tune the system to meet physicians’ needs. Part of that input led to the expansion of the Care Assistant system to better serve children with chronic conditions, like asthma.

Fiks is currently leading a research team in a multiyear pilot program to develop a shared decision making portal for children with chronic illnesses, starting with pediatric asthma. Part of the study is designed to assess the feasibility of using the system for families and clinicians. It will also assess the impact of the system on the quality and safety of pediatric asthma care. The idea is expand it to other areas including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions in childhood, affecting an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 years old, according to 2011 data from the American Lung Association. It is also the third leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15 years old.

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