IBM Research is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as a nonprofit consortium to standardize electronic reporting and exchange of public health data.
, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, and the Public Health Data Standards
Consortium (PHDSC) are working on a template to standardize the exchange
of data on illnesses, so public health officials will be able to respond more
effectively to outbreaks such as whooping cough, hepatitis, flu and West Nile virus.
Announced on Aug. 16, the
technology will enable public health officials to move beyond phone calls as
well as faxes, mailed paper forms or electronic fill-in-the-blank forms as they
satisfy requirements to report cases of infectious diseases.
IBM researchers will
work with public health officials to develop a clinical document architecture
template compatible with electronic health record (EHR) platforms to enable
records to be shared among local, county, state and federal officials.
"This collaboration is an opportunity to reduce disparities,
improve control of infectious diseases, with the aim of building standardized
electronic health care systems that is accountable for the health of our
communities and our country," Dr. Nikolay Lipskiy, health IT standards and
interoperability lead for the CDC, said in a statement.
"We are committed to bringing a common voice from the
public health community to the national efforts of standardizing health
information technology and population health data to improve individual and
community health," Dr. Anna Orlova, executive director of PHDSC, said in a
The nonprofit standards
is a made of federal,
state and local health agencies that collaborate on electronic standards for
"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," said Orlova.
"Templates can be
built in a reusable and extendible way that reduce the complexity and the
amount of work needed to build reports for new conditions," Sondra Renly, lead scientist, collaborative public health
transformation for IBM Research, told eWEEK
in an email.
Delaware, New York,
State and San Diego County are participating in a pilot to create, validate and
exchange reports of public health cases. Data originates from EHRs or health
, said IBM.
For the pilot, the New
York State Department of Health worked with PHDSC to determine the data
necessary to study whooping cough, or pertussis.
"What's necessary for pertussis is different
from tuberculosis," Shannon Kelley, director of programs for the Office of
Health Information Technology and Transformation in the New York State
Department of Health, told eWEEK.
where the work comes in defining that."
A template on pertussis will allow for sharing of
immunization history, a key piece of information in preventing infectious
disease from spreading, IBM's Renly noted.
The data standards comply
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services program on meaningful
use of EHRs
, said Kelley.
"Once we have data standards and technology
standards agreed upon at a national level, they can be incorporated into the
meaningful-use incentive programs," she said. "EHR vendors want to
support what public health needs, but they can't build a different solution in
50 different states."
Public health officials will use this data to reduce
the amount of time needed to report new health cases.
EHR developers will be
able to incorporate these standards into their systems, said Kelley. Health
record applications can capture a doctor's visit, test result or medication.
The initiative will lead
to the automation of public health reporting, which can help officials monitor
them and prevent communicable diseases from spreading, according to IBM.
"We're really just looking toward being able to
transition to a more electronic real-time automated system where we can not
only get information faster but bidirectionally communicate," said Kelley.
Traditional reporting methods are
outside the provider's EHR workflow and lead to underreporting and errors, according
"Underreporting of infectious disease case reports is a persistent
issue and needs to be addressed so that public health resources are
appropriately allocated and result in effective interventions," said Renly.