Public Health Professionals’ Meaningful Use Conference Call: Join In

In the discussions we’ve had with our EpiCenter users, one topic is on everyone’s minds—the challenges of implementing Meaningful Use and Syndromic Surveillance. Some clients have moved further along in the process than others, but the common thread we’re hearing is that a collective effort of insight, ideas, and assistance would be of great benefit.


To help our clients deal with these challenges, HMS is coordinating a conference call to bring together Public Health Professionals from across the country. We’ll frame each call with a topic, then ask for input—anything from questions to proposed solutions—to help all involved move through the issues and find a workable solution.

A number of our clients have told us that an impediment to implementation has been coordination with state Medicaid programs. And it’s no wonder. These state programs have faced a daunting task to get up and running in a hurry. The Public Health Professionals who have successfully coordinated with state Medicaid programs are finding that they’re now fielding many questions from hospitals and eligible professionals about Meaningful Use and Syndromic Surveillance.

It’s time to open up a discussion about what’s working and what is not. By sharing information and ideas, we can help to simplify the process of Meaningful Use and Syndromic Surveillance implementation.

All that we need is your assistance. We’re getting ready for the inaugural Public Health Professionals’ Meaningful Use conference call in May.  If you are not a current EpiCenter user and are interested in participating, please contact Lauren Bradford for more information.


EpiCenter adds Comparison Feature to Descriptive Analysis

EpiCenter users now have the opportunity to compare current data with historical data to gain a clearer perspective on potential threats to public health.

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Feedback on the Draft Guidelines for Inpatient and Ambulatory Clinical Care Data

Andy Walsh, PhD, HMS Director of Public Health Solutions 

The inclusion of syndromic surveillance reporting in the Meaningful Use requirements has created an unprecedented opportunity for the field. By crafting guidelines for how to define that reporting, the syndromic surveillance community can have a significant impact on the way that public health agencies and healthcare providers respond to that particular Meaningful Use objective. Therefore, it is important to consider the recently released draft guidelines for inpatient and ambulatory care data and assess whether they are moving things in the right direction.

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HIE—The Challenges and Promise

Health Information Exchange (HIE) provides the opportunity for Public Health professionals to access a wider range of data—from Syndromic Surveillance to notifiable conditions, immunization, and health registries.

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Stage 2 Deadlines and How to Comment

On March 7, 2012, Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements were released for public comment. The finalized requirements are expected this summer after the 60-day comment period expires.

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Upcoming Webinar Provides Insight into Health Information Exchange

Health Monitoring Systems is committed to providing Public Health professionals with resources that give insight into Meaningful Use, Health Information Exchange, and Syndromic Surveillance challenges.

On Tuesday, May 29, the Health Information and Technology Practice Group and the Public Sector Health Lawyers Task Force will hold a webinar to explore Stage 2 Meaningful Use criteria regarding electronic reporting. The webinar, “Public Health Reporting Through a Health Information Exchange,” will cover techniques for streamlining or automating mandatory reporting for infectious disease surveillance and other public health reporting requirements. Panels will explore models for electronic reporting and address security safeguards.

Learn more and register for the webinar at The American Health Lawyers Association website.

We encourage you to continue an open dialogue about Meaningful use and Health Information Exchange by commenting on our blogs.


A Hospital Administrator's View of Syndromic Surveillance

Penn Krause, HMS’ Vice President of Business Development, has previously served as a CEO, COO, and Division Vice President in non-profit and investor-owned healthcare systems. During his tenure as COO of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, the system was named one of Hospitals and Health Networks “Most Wired.”

In a recent HealthData Management article, Joseph Goedert writes, “sales of electronic health records (EHR) systems hit $17.9 billion in 2011, a 14.2 percent increase over the previous year, according to an annual study from Kalorama Information, a New York-based research firm.”

As the adoption of EHRs accelerates, more hospitals are working to understand the financial and technical requirements of Syndromic Surveillance Implementation.

Technical Issues

EHR implementation can be a challenge for even the most skilled IT department. Syndromic Surveillance is just one part of the bigger EHR picture. The biggest areas of concern involve:

Time. Installing or upgrading an EHR system is time-consuming.  To achieve Meaningful Use certification, most hospitals will need to upgrade or install new systems.
Scope of work.  Meaningful Use implementation is much more complex than most IT projects, which are often geared toward coding.
Changes for ICD-10 and HIPAA. EHR implementation overlaps with these changes.

Cost and Timing

Additionally, the up front cost of an EHR is a concern. While compliance ensures receipt of Medicare and Medicaid incentives, getting an EHR system up and running is costly—both in terms of time and money.

The cost of implementation and the degree of coordination with other projects requires a strong leadership commitment. There is agreement that the EHR strategy should be included in the overall strategic plan and vision of the hospital.
A budget for EHR can be in the tens of millions of dollars—with a ROI of several million.
Because of the complexity of project implementation, and its effects across a health system, hospital leadership understands that EHR implementation cannot be rushed. Instead it is part of a multi-year plan.

Long Term Planning

Stage 2 Meaningful Use implementation becomes mandatory in 2014, so long term planning is critical to address the challenges involved.

There will be changes to the core care delivery processes, affecting physicians, hospital personnel, and the IT staff.
Project management is being utilized to oversee the redesign of multiple processes while monitoring potential disruptions.
Hospitals are looking back at Stage 1 as they move forward. During Meaningful Use Stage 1, hospitals discovered that EHR vendors’ work capacity was constrained by the high demand generated by the incentive programs. This comes at a time when both hospitals and vendors face significant shortages of trained staff.

Addressing these complex issues now will help hospitals to plan well for Syndromic Surveillance implementation.  This will help to ease the transition to stage 2.