Posted By Monique Dever On March 19, 2015

Connecting to Health Information Exchange (HIE) via EHR – how it helps syndromic surveillance for public health

Once all community EHRs are connected via Health Information Exchange (HIE) it will be powerful for public health departments to see real-time disease spreading statewide via syndromic surveillance and GIS mapping.


Concentrating on local community concerns, public health departments strategize on policies and tactics used to protect and improve the health of their community. This is done mainly through data collection and analysis, or syndromic surveillance.


According to Wikipedia, clinical surveillance, or syndromic surveillance, is the “collection and analysis of health data about a clinical syndrome that has a significant impact on public health, which is then used to drive decisions about health policy and health education.” Without data, public health services would not be so fruitful.


Today, thanks to the implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), data is becoming much more organized and accessible to public health departments. EHRs collect patient health information that can be quickly analyzed. Not only that, CMS Meaningful Use (MU) has mandated that all providers must electronically connect and share data electronically for public health.  Major MU public health related requirements are that all providers must electronically send information to statewide immunization registries, syndromic surveillance systems and upcoming cancer registries. Local health departments (LHDs) are no exceptions. LHDs too must comply with MU, connect to HIE and send data to state immunization registries and syndromic surveillance systems.


Of the 10 Essential Public Health Services conducted by health departments, all 10 are based around data, so access to, reporting of, and analysis of (especially real-time) data is critical for quick response in potential catastrophic situations, such as the numerous measles cases erupting in California and now many other states. EHRs can make an enormous impact. For example, in response to Ebola crisis, some apps-based EHR vendors quickly developed Ebola screening app to help with screening (possibly infected) patients.


Once HIEs are fully implemented and all community EHRs are connected, one can imagine how powerful it will be to see the real-time disease spreading across a state. The state data can be overlaid with state GIS map to see where the outbreak is and how it is spreading in the community. Public heath leaders like Durham county health department are leading by connecting to HIE and connecting their EHR to county GIS mapping system.


According to Health IT “Electronic health information exchange (HIE) allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically—improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.” It delivers interoperability among EHRs maintained by physicians and healthcare organizations.


If you do not yet have an EHR, make sure the EHR you get is federally certified: do not compromise – only get an EHR which meets 100% of MU stage 2 requirements and is certified as “2014 Edition Complete EHR”. Second step will be to talk with your state HIE to start getting connected. If you are a local health department, connect your EHR to the Immunization registry to save dual data entry and comply.


Find out more about getting connected from Health IT.

About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.