CDC awards grant to build online connections between hospital labs, public health agencies

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded a grant to connectivity vendor Surescripts, the American Hospital Association (AHA), and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) to link hospital laboratories with public health agencies so that the labs can electronically transmit reportable test results.

During the two-year grant period, AHA, CAP and Surescripts will recruit, educate and connect a minimum of 500 hospital labs--including at least 100 critical access or rural hospitals--to the appropriate public health agencies. The collaborators will provide the necessary technical assistance to enable these hospital labs to begin electronically transmitting lab results to public health systems within six months.

The CDC said it is providing the grant now to help hospital labs meet the criteria for meaningful use of electronic health records. One of the 10 optional menu items for meaningful use--from which providers must choose five--is to submit electronic syndromic surveillance data to public health agencies. In addition, hospitals may choose to submit electronic data on reportable laboratory results to public health departments.

According to Surescripts spokesman Rob Cronin, the CDC also recognizes that the connectivity between hospital labs and public health departments is very limited. "They want us to build the infrastructure to create those links," he told FierceHealthIT.

Anthony Burke, senior vice president of the AHA, said that hospitals' interest in having a two-way interchange of data between their labs and public health agencies goes beyond meaningful use. Aside from supplying the data that the public health authorities need to do their work, he said, hospitals expect to learn a lot from the information they get back from the agencies over time.

For example, he said, hospitals can use the data to gain valuable knowledge about community health issues such as HIV. Also, he added, they can get early warnings about changing disease patterns. "Hospitals can find out whether they’re seeing any patterns they need to be concerned with or prepare for to provide better care for the entire community."

To learn more:
- read the press release
- see the Government Health IT story 

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