Epic arms clinicians with software update to detect coronavirus cases

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With concern growing about the spread of the coronavirus, healthcare IT vendor Epic has updated its standard travel screening questionnaire to identify possible cases.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States has risen to five, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. The first U.S. case was reported on January 20, and the second case was announced on January 24.

Between the two confirmed U.S. cases, on January 22, Epic sent an automatic software update to healthcare organizations around the country to “remind clinicians and other front-line staff to ask patients about recent international travel.”

The five persons in the U.S. who tested positive for the novel coronavirus had recently returned from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus has been ongoing since December.

According to Epic and based on CDC guidance, “If the patient has traveled from China or has symptoms of Wuhan novel coronavirus, the provider is advised to start isolation precautions to contain potential infection.”

The health IT vendor contends that, even before the first confirmed U.S. case, the Epic Travel and Communicable Disease Advisory Board—composed of infectious disease clinicians at healthcare organizations using Epic—started discussing updates to the travel screening questionnaire.

“Clinicians on our travel advisory board define the standard for the rapid translation of public health outbreak notifications into actionable warnings,” says Chris Alban, MD, clinical informaticist at Epic. “Organizations using Epic automatically get advisories in their system as soon as they’re created. Health systems can respond quickly with this configuration that’s been vetted by the experts.”

In addition to automatically providing the new coronavirus alert within Epic’s travel screening activity, the vendor is contacting healthcare organizations to confirm that they have a workflow that follows the CDC’s guidelines.

“Rapid response to an outbreak is critical to contain it, get patients the treatment they need and protect other patients and staff,” said James Doyle, Epic’s R&D product lead. “Organizations using Epic can be confident they’ll be covered by the latest guidelines from the CDC in consultation with leading experts.”

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