Meningitis Outbreak Prompted Electronic Access

KRISTIN M. HALL | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – During the early weeks of deadly fungal meningitis outbreak, the Tennessee Health Department was rushing to collect details about a rarely seen infection. State workers had to visit multiple hospitals, pick up pages of printed patient records and enter it into databases by hand.

But as the number of patients rapidly grew each day, the department asked the hospitals to provide their investigators with remote, electronic access to patient records.

It was the first time the health department ever got such access during a public health emergency.

State epidemiologist Dr. Time Jones said that electronic access to patient records was "a lifesaver" because of the complexity of the outbreak.

He said the department is considering legislation that would make electronic access easier in future health emergencies.

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