Minnesota To Lean on EHRs for Major HIV Screening Initiative

Electronic health records (EHRs) are going to help the state of Minnesota revolutionize the way it screens and tests individuals for HIV.

Typically, only people that are considered to be in a high-risk group for HIV/AIDS, such as intravenous drug users and gay or bisexual men, are routinely tested for HIV. However, some of Minnesota’s largest healthcare providers are pushing to require providers to ask every patient between the ages of 18 and 64 to be tested at least once, the Star-Tribune reports.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Nicholas Vogenthaler, from Minnesota’s Hennepin County Medical Center, tells the Tribune that research shows that many HIV-positive individuals have had many interactions with healthcare providers without having ever been tested or diagnosed for the disease, posing a missed opportunity for early treatment and better outcomes.

That’s why experts argue that building a prompt into an EHR, reminding doctors and nurses to ask every patient they see if they’ve been screened.

“Even asking the question, we are all sensitive to the social and emotional context of the screening,” said Dr. Beth Averbeck, associate medical director for primary care at HealthPartners clinics, told the paper. “People may not expect it at a visit.”

Having the EHR prompt the question allows physicians to convey to their patients that they are required to ask, not because the patient exhibits risk factors.

The state’s major providers—such as HealthPartners and the Mayo Clinic—have reprogrammed their EHRs systems and/or are testing new workflows, and Allina Health is reviewing recommended guidelines.

When a similar program was implemented in Cleveland, Ohio’s Metro Health System, HIV testing surged, from 25 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2012 for men. The rate for women jumped from 40.5 percent to 66 percent, according to the Tribune.

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