Physician viewpoint: EHRs should include patient travel history to help stem coronavirus epidemic, future pandemics

Recording patient travel history information into the EHR during routine medical appointments may help cap the COVID-19 outbreak, according to infectious disease specialists Trish Perl, MD, and Connie Savor Price, MD.

In a recent Annals of Internal Medicine article, Dr. Perl, who serves as chief of infectious diseases and geographic medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Dr. Savor Price, an ID specialist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, explained that healthcare providers should start inputting travel history information in the EHR as routinely as collecting a patient's temperature and blood pressure.

A targeted travel history can help physicians and caregivers examine infectious symptoms in a greater context, potentially triggering more detailed history, further testing and rapid implementation of protective measures for others in daily contact, such as co-workers or healthcare personnel, with patients who may have COVID-19, the co-authors explained.

"The current outbreak is an opportune time to consider adding travel history to the routine. The COVID outbreak is clearly moving at a tremendous pace, with new clusters appearing daily," said Dr. Perl, according to a news release. "This pace is a signal to us that it is a matter of time before we will see more of these infections in the U.S. What is different with this outbreak is that this virus is more fit and transmissible and hence there has been much more transmission."

Patient electronic medical records that are shared between healthcare organizations can also integrate travel history with computerized decision-making support to identify potential diagnoses in specific travelers, Dr. Perl and Dr. Savor Price wrote.

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