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Local public health efforts bolstered by use of health information exchange | Health

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Local public health efforts bolstered by use of health information exchange
Local public health efforts bolstered by use of health information exchange

By leveraging HEALTHeLINK, Western New York’s clinical information exchange, for its epidemiology and disease surveillance, the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) is noticing significant improvements in tracking overall public health efforts, specifically as it pertains to sexually transmitted diseases (STD) surveillance, treatment, and prevention.

Through HEALTHeLINK, ECDOH has been able to more accurately and efficiently improve its STD case reporting and contact tracing system. The percentage of reported chlamydia cases with unknown treatment in Erie County decreased from 46% in 2006 to 8% in 2012. In addition, HEALTHeLINK use results in more STD contacts brought into care to prevent the spread of disease throughout the community. This marks a 27% increase since HEALTHeLINK use began. During this same timeframe, reported gonorrhea cases with unknown treatment decreased from 19% to 4%. ECDOH is also utilizing data available through HEALTHeLINK for the treatment of syphilis.  In 2013 in Erie County, there were approximately 4,897 reported chlamydia and 1,060 gonorrhea cases.

“Having secure access to public health statistics and other data provides our public health practitioners with important and timely information to help them understand where we need to focus our attention in providing health care resources and education,” said Gale Burstein, MD, MPH, ECDOH Commissioner. “Our ongoing prevention efforts related to STDs have been aided by our collaboration with HEALTHeLINK which has become a valuable tool in our efforts to provide the public with more efficient care.”

These efficiencies have led to a reduction in time that it takes for disease intervention specialists to identify treatment requests, cases, and contacts. ECDOH epidemiology staff and disease intervention specialists use HEALTHeLINK to access lab, radiology, medication and demographic data to determine if appropriate STD treatment is administered and to monitor demographic and contact information on STD cases and their partners.

“The collaboration between ECDOH and HEALTHeLINK is good news for all residents and will result in a public health model that is streamlined, efficient, and able to make use of the latest information in a timely manner,” said Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive. “Investigations, links to care, treatment information, and many other types of vital data will be instantly available, resulting in cost savings and decreased pressures on health care providers.”

ECDOH has been utilizing HEALTHeLINK since 2010 and in addition to STDs, is also investigating cases of hepatitis B, tuberculosis and rabies within Erie County.  In the future, ECDOH will use clinical data available through HEALTHeLINK to measure overall population health and target those disease areas that may need further education or access to treatment.

“Being able to access real time information is translating into improvements for accurate and efficient STD identification, more timely treatment, and a reduction in the spread of the disease.  So while we talk about cost savings, which is important, you cannot calculate the cost savings of preventing the spread of diseases,” said Daniel E. Porreca, HEALTHeLINK’s executive director. “Our collaboration with the Erie County Department of Health is just one example of how HEALTHeLINK is continuing to build a strong health information technology infrastructure and testing innovative approaches in order to provide better care and outcomes as well as cost savings.”

In addition to working with ECDOH, HEALTHeLINK has also partnered with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to implement various public health use cases. These include syndromic surveillance reporting, the ability for a provider to submit immunizations administered, request a child’s immunization history, and for hospitals to report newborn bloodspot screening information to NYSDOH’s Wadsworth Lab and receive lab screening results electronically.

“Ultimately, with the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), these best practices and infrastructure will be able to be leveraged, with patients’ consent, for improved care statewide,” Porreca said.  


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