HIMSS Davies Award Honors Two Public Health System Winners for Health IT Excellence

The HIMSS Davies Awards of Excellence recognize excellence in the implementation of and value from health information technology

Whether it's a tracking report on the spread of a flu virus or information on a food-borne illness related to a specific food product served in a restaurant or stocked on grocery store shelves, electronic public health systems track disease trends and frequency to ensure good health for populations of citizens of a particular state or region. 

Recognized in Atlanta at the Public Health Informatics 2011 Conference, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two winners of the HIMSS Public Health Davies Award of Excellence now join 14 past public health Davies award winners, all honored for positively impacting population health by optimizing health information technology.  The public health award is one of four award categories; the winners of the organizational, ambulatory and community health organization HIMSS Davies Award will be announced in September.

More information follows about the two HIMSS Davies Public Health Award winners with additional information available on the HIMSS website from their award application submissions. 

Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, Florida (ESSENCE-FL) 
The Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE-FL) serves the state of Florida population, 18 million residents plus all visitors (80.3 million annually) to the state. With the state's diverse population doubling in the last 20 years, the ESSENCE-FL system meets the demand for a single system that could be used to work with many different types of health data.   

Based in Tallahassee, Fla., the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control, Bureau of Epidemiology, Acute Disease Epidemiology Section, manages the ESSENCE-FL system.  A surveillance epidemiologist recruits and enrolls participating hospitals, expands the system to include new data sources, operates the system from day to day, and carries out regular epidemiologic analyses.  He has support both from information technology contract staff and from epidemiologic colleagues in the Section.  The system works by collecting disparate data sources in ESSENCE-FL to support a process that takes thousands of individual data points, categorizes and aggregates them, and translates them into "information for action." State- and county-level epidemiologists across all FDOH program areas rely on and use the system to detect outbreaks and unusual cases and monitor deaths and injury or illness after events, such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, pandemic influenza, the Gulf oil spill, etc.   

For example, a county user of ESSENCE-FL detected a cluster of four patients who came to the emergency department in a short period of time. By following up with the hospital, the county health department found all patients had purchased and eaten food from the same grocery store deli. An inspection of the deli found food heating lamps were not working, and food temperatures were below the hot holding recommended temperature. The deli corrected the situation with replacing the heat lamps and discarding the temperature-abused food; this happened before the illness had been reported to public health because the source of the illness was found and quickly remedied to prevent further illness.  

"The Florida Department of Health is pleased to receive this significant national award that highlights the quality and depth of Florida's communicable disease surveillance staff and systems," said Steven L. Harris, MD, M.Sc., Deputy Secretary for Health for the Florida Department of Health.  

"The ability to efficiently access multiple data sources in one system enhances our efforts to identify outbreaks or unusual trends more rapidly, conduct analyses and provide evidence-based reports to our community stakeholders, which leads to the timely implementation of disease control recommendations."  

The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Primary Care Information Project 
The New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Primary Care Information Project The Primary Care Information Project is a Bureau of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene designed to improve the quality of care in underserved communities through health IT. With a staff of 95, PCIP has extended prevention-oriented EHRs to over 2,800 NYC primary care providers working in underserved settings. This virtually integrated healthcare system includes 541 independent small practices, 38 community health centers and three hospitals. Collectively, these practices serve over 2 million patients in NYC; about one quarter of the total NYC population.   

These practices, selected for their high volumes of Medicaid and uninsured patients, all have access to shared resources, such as clinical quality and technical staff, a unified public health hub, quality dashboards and group trainings. By leveraging data derived from this EHR network, PCIP allows the NYC DOHMH to conduct programs in a more strategic, data-driven manner.  By being connected to PCIP, these independent practices have access to important tools that can save lives and improve population health.  Early findings from PCIP have shown improvements in quality across multiple clinical preventive services.   In a recent study of practices participating in PCIP, 52% of patients had their high cholesterol managed more effectively (up from 39% at the outset), 56% of those with high blood pressure had it under control (up from 49%), and 20% of those with diabetes controlled their A1c levels (up from 14%).  

"We at the New York City Health Department are honored to receive this recognition for our Primary Care Information Project's success in influencing the health of New Yorkers through health information technology," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. "Health information from this project not only helps us identify City-wide public health issues, it provides physicians with unprecedented feedback about the health of their patients. We look forward to the continued success of this program and to sharing what we've learned with other public health organizations and municipalities."

"The HIMSS Public Health Davies Award Committee congratulates these two award winners for their ongoing dedication to preserving quality health outcomes through their respective public health systems," said Julia E. Gunn, RN, MPH, Chair, of the 2011 Committee, and a 2009 HIMSS Davies Public Health Award winner with the Boston Syndromic Surveillance System or B-SYNSS.  Gunn is Director, Communicable Disease Control Division, Infectious Disease Division, Boston Public Health Commission.   

Visit the HIMSS Web site for more information on the Davies Award of Excellence program. Davies Award winners will share their success stories of EHR implementation at the 2012 Annual HIMSS Conference & Exhibition on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nev. Visit the HIMSS12 website for more information.

About HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence
The HIMSS Nicholas E. Davies Award of Excellence recognizes excellence in the implementation and use of health information technology, specifically electronic health records (EHRs), for healthcare organizations, private practices, public health systems, and community health organizations.  Created by CPRI-HOST in 1994, the first three recipients of the Davies Organizational Award were recognized in 1995.  In 2002, CPRI-HOST merged with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and now, HIMSS manages the award program.  The Award honors Dr. Nicholas E. Davies, an Atlanta-based practicing physician, president-elect of the American College of Physicians, and a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Improving the Patient Record, who died in 1991 in a plane crash. Visit www.himss.org/davies for more information, including educational resources.  


Joyce Lofstrom
phone: 312-915-9237