UK Health Protection Agency Unveils Upgraded Syndromic Surveillance System for Olympic Games

Just in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games, The UK Health Protection Agency has made upgrades to its syndromic surveillance system—including a new emergency department system and an urgent care system.

Events that bring together hundreds of thousands of fans from countries all around the world have the potential to harbor a disease outbreak. Real time syndromic surveillance makes it possible to track and respond to such an outbreak.

As many of you know, RODS, a software and a research lab at the University of Pittsburgh, provided the first demonstration of syndromic surveillance at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. At the time, one of the biggest fears in the wake of September 11, 2001 was a bioterrorism attack. Over 114,000 acute care visits were monitored in Salt Lake City during the time of (and shortly after) the Olympic games. Thankfully, no outbreaks of significance were detected, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

HMS routinely works with clients to monitor special events. The control and flexibility of EpiCenter combined with the responsiveness of our client services team, gives public health departments the opportunity to monitor everything form international conferences and festivals to natural disasters. This enables our clients to monitor potential outbreaks and analyze resulting data to develop strategies that improve public health.

What Does It Mean To Meet Meaningful Use Requirements?

While Syndromic Surveillance is optional in Meaningful Use stage 1, it becomes mandatory in the currently proposed stage 2 requirements. Health Monitoring Systems’ syndromic surveillance systems enable our clients to meet meaningful use requirements—provided the data submitted meets several additional criteria.

So what are the requirements to meet those criteria?

Simply put, if the transmission established uses an ONC-certified EHR system and the method of transmission uses HL7 2.3.1 or HL7 2.5.1 message format, then your agency/office meets the stage 1 meaningful use criteria for syndromic surveillance, as defined by ONC and CMS.

However, if your EHR system is not ONC-certified and you are not sending HL7 2.3.1 or HL7 2.5.1 formatted messages, you are not meeting CMS Meaningful Use.

Need more information? Contact us to learn how we can assist you in meeting meaningful use requirements, and the public health needs, in your community.

Teresa Hamby on Irene Qualifier

At the recent CSTE conference in Omaha, Teresa Hamby, MSPH, Data Analyst in the Communicable Disease Service of the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services prepared a poster outlining Syndromic Surveillance data collected during and after 2011’s Hurricane Irene.

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Blog Buzz

Recent topics on our blog include some big changes in the way one state is securely sharing and sending information between healthcare providers—as well as a notification system that immediately lets a physician know when a patient has been admitted to an emergency room.

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Kern County, CA Choose EpiCenter

HMS is pleased to announce that Kern County, California, recently began utilizing EpiCenter as its county’s syndromic surveillance system.

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Direct Project vs. HIEs: Maximizing the Value of a Healthcare Dollar

Conceptually, most agree that HIEs (Health Information Exchanges) provide a means to improve healthcare delivery—especially on a regional basis.

So why would Tennessee decide to abandon its plans for a statewide HIE?

This question leads to other questions regarding HIEs, some of which we discussed in our past blog on HIEs: Do too many rights make a wrong?. First, how would an HIE fare in a cost/benefit analysis? Would it show a benefit in line with the time and money necessary to implement and maintain it?

And next, given the limited amount of money to fund HIEs, are there other initiatives that would show a greater return on investment from a healthcare standpoint?

Clearly for Tennessee the answers are “No” and “Yes.” As a result, the state has shifted its focus and resources toward ONC’s Direct Project—which promotes standards and protocols for the sending of secure and encrypted email messages, containing patient information, between healthcare providers.

The Direct Project is a low-cost solution that has shown quick, positive results. It helps hospitals and eligible professionals to meet Meaningful Use requirements. And it appeals to physicians and medical offices that do not yet utilize electronic health records. These professionals and offices stand to benefit from sending and receiving patient information via email.

While significant amounts of (primarily Federal) money has continued to flow into the development of HIEs, Tennessee’s decision presents an interesting contrast and will hopefully lead to a broader discussion on maximizing the value of each dollar spent on healthcare initiatives.

Battle of the Network Acronyms

We all know that acronyms are a quick way to reference many companies and government organizations (our personal favorite is, of course, HMS). But trying to wade through a Meaningful Use document containing 15 different acronyms can be challenging. To help you gain a clearer picture of the key players in Meaningful Use implementation, HMS will occasionally blog on the agencies—and their acronyms—that we all should know about.

This week, we’ll showcase the connection between CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology).

CMS set the rules for the “Electronic Health Records Incentive Program,” which evolved into today’s Meaningful Use requirements. Meeting these requirements qualifies an eligible hospital or professional to receive Medicaid incentive payments from CMS.

ONC coordinates the implementation of health information technology and the electronic exchange of health information. ONC is responsible for creating the standards for—and certifying—Electronic Health Records (also known as EHR).

In order to meet the CMS’ Meaningful Use requirements, hospitals and eligible professionals must utilize information technology certified by ONC.

Regularly updated lists of approved providers/products are available on ONC‘s website.