Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a disorder of the abdominal aorta wherein the aorta forms a balloon-like bulge. This dilatation is at risk for rupture anytime, making the disease potentially life threatening. Many affected patients do not have any idea that they have AAA until it expands and ruptures. Almost 65% of cases of ruptured AAA die from shock even before emergency care has been done. Furthermore, the Society for Vascular Surgery says that an estimated number of one million Americans are cases of undiagnosed AAA. Screening therefore is essential to reduce morbidities and undiagnosed cases and also to have better chances at aneurysm treatment.
In a study done by Kaiser Permanente, which was published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, they showed that the number of men at-risk who were unscreened for AAA was reduced by half using a program specific for screening AAA integrated in the EHR of patients. These promising results open the door for chances of aneurysm treatment options and complete recovery.
In a statement by Robert Hye, study lead author and chief of vascular surgery in Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center, he said that since AAA are almost always asymptomatic, patients usually are left undiagnosed until their aneurysms rupture. “That makes screening for AAA all the more vital and important,” he stressed.
The US Preventive Services Task Force together with the American Heart Association have recommended screening for AAA in men with history of smoking aged 65 to 75. This was started in 2005.
The research in health informatics was done by examining the health records of 68,164 men who were qualified during the initial screening. An alert was created in the EHR as a signal that the records of that particular patient shows that screening for AAA should be done. These patients were then closely monitored for 15 months. This alert system is the one responsible for the observed reduction of unscreened individuals.
“This type of program would be very hard to implement in a non-integrated system because their practitioners don’t have universal EHRs to help them monitor their patients.” Dr. Hye pointed out. This emphasizes the significant contribution of the Kaiser Permanente health care system which is highlighted by the Kaiser’s interconnected “network of practitioners and physicians”.
Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect was launched in 2004. Since its debut, a number of studies have already been published which emphasizes the benefits of this EHR. Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect is the largest of non-government based electronic health record in the world.
Kaiser Permanente is based in the US and is currently serving 9.1 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia.