Health records are all the same, right? Not if you’re talking about occupational health (e.g., workers’ compensation injury treatment and management, screening exams, medical surveillance, wellness/health promotion, and outpatient rehabilitation). OSHA mandates that occupational health records, which are controlled by employers, are kept separate and independent from non-occupational health records, which are controlled by patients. These occupational health records must also be retained for 30 years after the employee leaves, whereas general medical record retention varies by state statue. Personal health records are also covered by HIPAA whereas some occupational health information is governed by OSHA.
This separation is fairly easy to maintain for most companies, but what about for hospitals? There are a lot of heathcare sector employees—about 18 million in the United States—and a lot of opportunity for injury. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 294,000 non-fatal injuries in 2014 and more than 100 deaths. Injuries can include anything from needlesticks to repetitive stress injuries to violence perpetrated by patients. Cases of occupational injury and illness with healthcare workers are among the highest of any industry sector.
The injured employee might also be a patient at the facility, complicating the relationship between occupational health and general health records. Many hospital systems have complicated EMR systems that don’t always talk to each other. Duplicating records, changing privacy settings, or manually storing data can easily lead to inaccuracies or privacy breaches. Recent hacks and ransomware crimes further prove the need for top-line information security measures.
To be safe, occupational health information should be maintained in a specifically-designed system. An EMR system that is maintained separately from an enterprise-wide EMR can be a key factor in successful separation between occupational and personal health information. Large-scale inpatient and ambulatory care EMR systems are not designed to manage the specific clinical, legal and financial aspects of occupational health as a business enterprise.
Success in occupational health service delivery largely depends on a healthcare organization’s ability to meet the needs of all stakeholders. In hospitals and health systems, occupational health is a strategic business initiative that spans the care continuum. It provides a dynamic portal of access to healthcare services for employers, employees, and their dependents.
In addition to the privacy advantages of using an occupational health-specific system, other advantages include streamlined workflow, greater accuracy in clinical documentation, and improved patient outcomes. Investment in a dedicated occupational health information management solution is a business decision that supports safer, healthier workplaces for people – a goal that aligns with the objectives of hospitals and employers in the communities they serve.