Information Technology Enhances Staff Communication and Disease Prevention during Measles Outbreak

Nearly 50 percent of young children returned to the hospital to receive a measles vaccination following a text message

Oct 9, 2014


The Department of Infection Prevention and Control (IP&C) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital collaborated with other departments to harness information technology (IT) during a measles outbreak earlier this year – including text message alerts to vulnerable patients – to prevent the spread of the disease. The findings were presented today at the IDWeek 2014 meeting.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus that was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. However, a surge in measles cases was seen in 2014 with 592 confirmed cases to date, including 26 in New York City between February 5 and April 29. Thirteen of these patients were treated at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. To help stem the outbreak, the hospital's IP&C team utilized IT resources to minimize measles exposures, manage suspected cases and increase vaccination rates.

As the measles outbreak unfolded, IP&C identified 537 patients who may have been exposed to the virus. To determine their vaccination status, NewYork-Presbyterian synchronized its immunization registry with New York City's, and found that 287 patients had either no immunity or an unknown immune status. An alert was put into these patients' electronic health records to ensure that the medical staff was aware of the patient's exposure status and the isolation requirements should the patient return to NewYork-Presbyterian. The electronic health records also contained measles order sets which included links to the Department of Health specimen collection forms to facilitate testing of suspect cases of measles.

In fact, 20 percent of the potentially exposed patients returned to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital for primary care or for care of other health issues while they were potentially infectious for measles. Due to the alerts in the electronic health records and the other interventions taken, there were no healthcare-associated measles cases during this outbreak at the hospital.

"The IT resources mobilized during this outbreak were an invaluable resource in communicating our infection prevention and control plan to front line staff," said Maria Messina, RN, IP&C, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, and lead researcher on the study. "We were also able to communicate important information about the epidemiology of the outbreak across the healthcare system."

NewYork-Presbyterian was also proactive in increasing vaccination rates in the community during the outbreak. Using its immunization registry, the hospital identified 266 children one to six years of age who had not yet received a measles vaccine. The hospital sent text messages to these families urging them to have their children vaccinated immediately. The texts included walk-in hours as well.

To date, 48 percent of those children have received their measles vaccination.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive hospitals and a leading provider of inpatient, ambulatory, and preventive care in all areas of medicine. With some 2,600 beds and more that 6,500 affiliated physicians and 20,000 employees, NewYork-Presbyterian had more than 2 million visits in 2013, including close to 15,000 infant deliveries and more than 310,000 emergency department visits. NewYork-Presbyterian comprises six campuses: NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The hospital is also closely affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently named to the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation. Affiliated with two world-renowned medical schools, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service.

IDWeek 2014

IDWeek 2014™ is an annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS). With the theme "Advancing Science, Improving Care," IDWeek features the latest science and bench-to-bedside approaches in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and epidemiology of infectious diseases, including HIV, across the lifespan. IDWeek 2014 takes place October 8-12 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The full name of the meeting is IDWeek 2014™.

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