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Federal Agencies Look to EHRs, HIEs for Real-Time Public Health Reporting

August 16, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Data Standards Consortium (PHDSC) are collaborating with the Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM to standardize the exchange and use of public health information through digital platforms to better control healthcare quality and care. The main purpose of the collaboration, IBM says, is to control major outbreaks of infections such as flu strains.

One of IBM’s research arms, IBM Research, is working with the CDC and PHDSC to develop a new approach to defining and delivering public health reporting by drawing insights from structured and unstructured data that currently exists in disparate systems. IBM says they are creating templates for public health case reports that could work with EHR systems. This, IBM says, would aim to allow critical information in the proper format to be easily shared among local, county, state and federal public health agencies to speed up response times.

"The state of a national healthcare infrastructure can be vastly improved through better management of data and an improved understanding of how healthcare services are delivered," states Nikolay Lipskiy, M.D., Health IT standards and interoperability lead for the CDC. "This collaboration is an opportunity to reduce disparities, improve control of infectious diseases, with the aim of building standardized electronic healthcare systems that is accountable for the health of our communities and our country.

Already, this kind of technology is being piloted with public health information systems in Delaware, New York State, and San Diego County. Using EHR systems and health information exchanges (HIEs) to validate and exchange test public health case reports. IBM says with real-time, meaningful data that exist within EHR systems, public health data reporting can be more effective.

The template tools were built on standards required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR incentive program. With these templates, IBM claims, EHR systems will be able to automatically capture most components of a public health case report, such as a doctor visit, a test result, or a prescribed medication.

“This standards-based integration of public health and clinical systems for electronic data exchanges will help improve the effectiveness of public health programs, the quality of care and the health of the public,” Anna Orlova, M.D., executive director, Public Health Data Standards Consortium, said in a statement.

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