Peace Corps plans EHR system in 2013

The Peace Corps plans to acquire a comprehensive electronic health records system to serve its volunteers stationed in 77 developing countries.

The agency wants to develop a proof of concept electronic health record (EHR) and test it in a limited pilot by September and deploy it in fiscal 2013.

However, the Peace Corps faces challenges in establishing an EHR that can reach all its volunteer posts.

Many of the developing regions where volunteers work, primarily in Africa and the Asia Pacific, have low bandwidth and big delays in processing network data because it is difficult to acquire affordable Internet connectivity, according to a recent request for information announcement in Federal Business Opportunities.

“An overall solution must work for all posts, not just the well-connected ones,” the agency said.

Peace Corps staff in country will use a laptop or mobile device to record basic medical information and synchronize it to OpenEMR, a free and open source application that will be used in post countries for practice management and be customized to meet requirements. It is also certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to meet meaningful use requirements.

Among the comprehensive EHR’s functions, the system should supply searchable problem, medication and allergies lists and a record of vaccinations. The EHR will allow for the electronic transfer of information from a pre-service medical screening system.

The EHR system will also provide a billing module for exporting to a claims database a “super bill,” which will include healthcare provider, cost and other information in standard codes to enable an audit trail to track specific expenses, medical costs for specific conditions and medical budgeting from the bottom up.

A clinical notes section will also enable the provider to enter free-form narrative entry for each patient visit. And the system will feature a lab and imaging section and a consultation section, for which results can be scanned and pasted into the record.

The Peace Corps has other related systems underway to better recruit, place and support its volunteers around the world, including a volunteer lifecycle management system and volunteer electronic health system.

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