Dr. Brian Anderson, senior clinical content manager at Athenahealth, said the outreach and screening that result from the initiative could reduce the number of complications seen from Zika, and in turn reduce medical costs. And, "I think that individuals will be making better decisions," including using contraception if they are at risk of Zika, he said.
Athenahealth said its Zika outreach effort is the first in what the company hopes will be an ongoing series of initiatives to mine the company's huge database for information about patients who could benefit from targeted information and intervention by health providers.
"This is the tip of the iceberg," said Anderson. He added that the data-crunching the company has already done on Zika in Miami leaves it well-positioned to do similar outreach efforts related to the virus elsewhere in the United States.
Athenahealth said the effort kicked off Monday after the unprecedented warning from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that advised pregnant women and their partners, and couples thinking about getting pregnant, to steer clear of the Wynwood neighborhood, or take steps to prevent mosquito bites, get screened for Zika and take other precautions.
That warning came after the CDC identified several cases of Zika being spread by mosquitoes in the small area, where more than 42,000 people live, according to the 2010 census. Statewide, 15 people in Florida have become infected from mosquitoes.
"A CDC travel advisory was sent out at 4 p.m." on Monday for Wynwood, said Anderson.
Anderson said he then reached out to his colleague, senior AthenaResearch associate Stewart Richardson, to search the company's database of more than 81 million patient records and 80,000 health providers.
"By 6:30 p.m., we had defined the patient cohort of ... women of child-bearing age and adult men" of the same age in Wynwood, Anderson said.
The 1,850 people identified in Athenahealth's database represent nearly 25 percent of all the patients the company has records for from that Wynwood neighborhood.
"We don't have records of any of these people having a [Zika] test," said Richardson.
Anderson said, "This is a population ... that likely needs to be screened for Zika."
When the duo realized that most of the identified people were patients of Borinquen, they reached out to the facility and spoke with Shmuels.
"Diego expressed an interest and willingness in partnering with us to reach out to these patients," Anderson said.
"This is the first time were partnering with specific groups in Florida with outreach to their patients," he said.
As part of the effort, Athenahealth is also going to have patient health records updated with the latest CDC guidelines about Zika, so that providers can educate their patients about the risks and preventive measures that can be taken.