Pilot Project: Ambulatory Care Data & Syndromic Surveillance

Although they make up only a small portion of the overall requirements, the Public Health-related set of Meaningful Use requirements has still managed to generate a considerable amount of debate and confusion. One of the primary sources of this confusion relates to ambulatory care providers and the submission of syndromic surveillance data.

While the Federal Meaningful Use regulations included requirements for ambulatory care providers to submit syndromic surveillance data to Public Health Departments, the specification that was supposed to guide/define this process for ambulatory providers was still under development at the time the regulations were released. Recently, the CDC indicated that they were dropping any plans to develop/release these specifications, but not dropping the requirement. Though it may seem like a curious decision, the CDC’s reasoning was based in part on the fact that many jurisdictions were not able to receive this data either for technical or logistical reasons. In fact, the Federal Syndromic Surveillance application, BioSense 2.0, is unable to accept data from ambulatory care providers.

Health Monitoring Systems’ EpiCenter platform, however, is fully capable of accepting data from ambulatory providers. Prior to the CDC’s announcement regarding the non-release of the specifications, several state health departments using EpiCenter had already initiated projects designed to collect ambulatory care data. Clearly this created a problem.

Health Monitoring Systems’ solution was two-fold. In conjunction with our partners in public health, we created a modified version of the PHIN Syndromic Surveillance specification for hospitals, which was then implemented as the ambulatory care technical specification in several states. At the same time, we launched an ambulatory care pilot project.

The pilot project involves enrolling a high percentage of the ambulatory providers in several metro regions where we already have a large number of hospitals submitting data to EpiCenter. By saturating the data collection in these pilot regions, we hope to gain both a deeper and broader understanding of the health status of the community, and to demonstrate the value of collecting this data from ambulatory providers. Health Monitoring Systems will publish its findings to share the knowledge gained through the pilot project with the broader public health community. Stay tuned.