CSTE Annual Conference – June 3-7 in Omaha, Nebraska

Over 1,000 Public Health professionals are expected to attend The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists’ (CSTE) Annual Conference in Omaha. Kicking off on June 3, the conference is a 5-day event that includes workshops, sessions with Public Health leaders, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions.

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HMS’ Planning Guide Provides Direction for Meaningful Use Implementation

Meaningful Use is an opportunity for Public Health to benefit from an influx of valuable health data. But some Public Health departments are experiencing challenges as they attempt to implement Meaningful Use. We’ve received feedback from Public Health professionals nationwide, and the feedback always came back to one topic—making implementation simpler and more intuitive.

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Meaningful Use Communications and Collaboration: Working with State Medicaid

Physicians’ practices and hospitals in your region stand to gain financially when they comply with Meaningful Use—they’ll be eligible for Medicaid reimbursements.

And now, Public Health professionals are setting the groundwork that will make these reimbursements possible. Before valuable data can be collected from physicians and hospitals, a pipeline needs to be established for information flow—and that begins with a conversation between Public Health and the state Medicaid liaison.

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Kicking off Summer – Syndromic Surveillance and Anomalies

Memorial Day signifies the beginning of the summer season—and with it, public health issues that typically peak in the summer months. This can include anything from asthma attacks to jellyfish stings and hospital visits related to a significant weather event.

EpiCenter, HMS’ syndromic surveillance system, allows you to monitor these issues to determine if the number of occurrences are higher or lower than typically seen. For example, last year when meteorologists predicted that Hurricane Irene would make a significant impact in New Jersey, the state’s Department of Health & Senior Services contacted HMS to request that a classifier be added to EpiCenter—to identify hurricane-related ER visits. Hospitals across the state were notified that they should add the word “Irene” in any ER admissions related to the hurricane. This provided the state with valuable information on the types of illnesses occurring as a direct result of the hurricane.

Contact us if you’d like to customize your EpiCenter subscription to add a classifier that can better assist you in monitoring public health. And enjoy your holiday weekend!

The Importance of Well-Defined Meaningful Use Requirements

Past blogs have focused on the need for a Meaningful Use road map—an easy to follow path to implementing Meaningful Use and achieving the benefit of Medicare/Medicaid incentives. For Meaningful Use to be effective, public health departments need to create clear requirements that hospitals, eligible professionals, and urgent care centers can easily meet.

A recent article on Modern Healthcare shows that this is often not the case—resulting in fewer-than-expected numbers of hospitals meeting Meaningful Use requirements. This highlights the importance of well-defined requirements to healthcare providers. For public health Meaningful Use criteria—and specifically syndromic surveillance—this is a key aspect to project success.

Read more about the missed opportunity of Meaningful Use—specifically in the amount of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements lost—in the article EHR Payments Accelerate For Docs, Slow for Hospitals.


HIE: Do too many rights make a wrong?

Much of our current work focuses on engaging state and local public health departments regarding planning for meaningful use.  In the last two weeks alone, we’ve had excellent conversations with five state health departments.  A recurring theme: What to do about the state HIE?


Long term, there is no question that the right thing is to have a single source for electronic health information.  Public health would be well-served by this one “healthcare data pipeline” that carried syndromic data, infectious disease reports, lab results, immunization reports and registry data.

That’s the vision of a functional state HIE. And it is the right one.

State HIEs are looking for ways to do the right thing.  Short term, they have milestones to demonstrate their overall value—to the government, providers, and payers.

The HIEs are also concerned about establishing a long-term sustainable revenue model.  That’s the right thing to do as well.

Eligible hospitals and eligible professionals will be seeking credit for meaningful use via syndromic surveillance data exchange—definitely the right thing to do.

For State Epidemiologists, the list of rights is much longer. They need to add hospitals and professionals to their existing syndromic surveillance system (if they have one) and support the state HIE.

Here’s where it gets complicated. Because all of those rights could easily turn into a wrong.

The relationship between the state health department and the HIE is not likely to provide the core revenue model for sustaining the HIE going forward.  At best, it is a value add to the health department and an incremental revenue stream for the HIE.

But the HIE can demonstrate benefit from public supported funds by working with public health. In return, public health can quite sensibly provide a list of milestones for the HIE to accomplish.

A demonstration project can fit the bill for both parties.  Public health can continue to meet the needs of eligible hospitals and professionals while engaging the HIE.

What would that project look like?

It would involve cooperative demonstration of the HIE ability to securely connect healthcare providers to the system and monitor for real-time data flow and quality.  This type of task is different in nature than many other data exchange requirements that lack a real-time data requirement.  Billing and charges for health information exchange can be off by days or a week.  Patient medication history may not include prescriptions written in the last 24 to 48 hours.  But for syndromic surveillance, these are key requirements for compliance.

A demonstration project would show that the health department and the HIE can work together, in a limited scope, to provision data connections while managing them effectively.

Starting with a limited demonstration project lessens the risk of impacting the overall syndromic surveillance project. And it gives the HIE an opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities without undertaking a substantial new effort.

It’s a positive scenario for both public health and the HIE. And it’s definitely the right thing to do.