New York looks to EHRs to enhance public health surveillance

The New York City Public Health Department, in partnership with the City University of New York School of Public Health, is launching a pilot project to aggregate electronic health record data into a surveillance tool to improve public health. The project, known as the NYC Macroscope, will be the first U.S. program to use EHRs in this manner, according to a blog post from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has provided support for the effort.  

NYC Macroscope will compile EHR data from primary care practices involved in New York's Primary Care Information Project to help the city monitor the prevalence of chronic conditions, such as obesity and hypertension, as well as smoking rates and flu vaccinations. It will not replace traditional public health surveillance, but has the potential to provide a lot of information on chronic and other conditions in real time, while increasing connections between public health and clinical care, according to NYC Macroscope's Carolyn Greene, M.D., deputy commissioner of the NYC Department of Health.

"[I]n public health, one of our jobs is to monitor the health of the population, and electronic health records offer a very useful tool to do this," Greene told Brian Quinn, a senior program officer with RWJF. "In turn, it is our responsibility to feed data back to policymakers, to those who come up with clinical guidelines, to providers, to the public, and we hope that the data we gather and monitor using electronic health records will have an impact on clinical care."

EHRs continue to demonstrate their potential benefit beyond individual patient care, not only in public health, but also in areas such as research and quality management.

To learn more:
- read the interview
- view the NYC Macroscope website