ONC investing $20M to boost COVID-19 vaccine data sharing efforts

As the nation continues to ramp up distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, providers will need to track patients due to receive the second dose of the vaccine and better identify high-risk patients.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), is making major investments to help increase data sharing between health information exchanges (HIEs) and immunization information systems.
ONC will award nearly $20 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by former President Donald Trump in March to support the nation’s vaccination efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new investments will support opportunities to track vaccination progress, help clinicians pinpoint and contact high-risk patients, and coordinate appointments for patients due to receive the second dose of the vaccine, according to a press release.

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The projects will build on and expand ONC’s Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program by helping communities improve the sharing of health information related to vaccinations.

ONC will also award funds to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and CORHIO, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, to support immunization related health information exchange collaborations. 

“These CARES Act funds will allow clinicians to better access information about their patients from their community immunization registries by using the resources of their local health information exchanges,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health IT. “Through these collaborative efforts public health agencies and clinicians will be better equipped to more effectively administer immunizations to at-risk patients, understand adverse events, and better track long-term health outcomes as more Americans are vaccinated.”

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The new investments also will help provide a statistically and clinically robust way to measure vaccination outcomes, ONC said. In collaboration with health information exchanges, the ability to individually correlate every patient who has received the vaccine with all of their clinical data both pre- and post-vaccination could offer more detailed insight into any adverse events and long-term health outcomes than is currently possible. 
There are currently 63 immunization information systems across the U.S., one in each state, eight in territories and five in cities. They are funded in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Currently, there are approximately 100 health information exchange organizations in the U.S., reaching an estimated 92% of the U.S. population, according to the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, the national trade association for the exchanges.