Kansas' Health Information Network is the first health information exchange directly connected to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's BioSense program, which tracks public health threats, outbreaks and epidemics.
The BioSense program was started in 2003 as part of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. It tracks 89 reporting categories, which when done in the aggregate can reveal different trends and possible outbreaks by symptom, such as asthma or hemorrhage.
"This has a lot of potential for us to get information that we have not really had access to before, or information that we've collected in a manual process," Charlie Hunt, Kansas' state epidemiologist said in an announcement.
For instance, during the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, hospitals had to manually comb through their electronic health record systems to locate relevant information for submission to the CDC, according to the HIE's announcement. Now, the data is fed to the agency automatically in real time.
Kansas' HIE program has hit a few obstacles in the past. The state's quasi public HIE voted to dissolve and turn its operations over to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in September. This new development appears to indicate that the transition was a good move for the state.
Other state HIEs also have been making inroads in data sharing through their networks, according to recent research by the eHealth Initiative.