HEALTHeLINK, a health information exchange serving the greater Buffalo region in New York, has a new service enabling hospitals to automatically submit syndromic surveillance information to the state health department.

Providers have multiple ways to submit syndromic data but they include manual processes such as running a report and manually uploading the report to the department, or submitting daily messages via a department messaging system.

Now, two hospitals are using HEALTHeLINK’s automated reporting system with six others in the process of joining.  Jones Memorial Hospital, a 70-bed facility in Wellsville, N.Y., was a pilot site. An ADT feed, customized with expanded fields to include syndromic data, is automatically sent each day to the HIE via a Health Level Seven interface, which then sends the data to the state, says Alicia Johnson, director of IT at Jones Memorial.

The service is easy to use and eliminates the occasional problem of someone forgetting to send the surveillance report and the state calling, and then having to find and get the data, Johnson says. Also, there is no additional cost for having the syndromic data automatically sent to the health department.

The new service also is timely as Jones Memorial Hospital is on track to attest for Stage 2 electronic health records meaningful use this year and submitting syndromic data is part of the criteria, Johnson notes. The hospital turned to the HIE for assistance after its syndromic surveillance reporting module from Meditech did not work, she adds.

All of Meditech's Public Health Interfaces (Syndromic Surveillance, Immunizations and Lab Reporting) went through rigorous testing and certification for Stage 2, according to a company spokesman. They have been certified for more than a year on all platforms for Stage 2 requirements and all updates were delivered to customers over this past year.

HEALTHeLINK has acted as a pilot site for several recent public health initiatives in the state, with some of the other 10 HIEs in New York also participating. In late 2013, it rolled out automated immunization reporting to the New York State Immunization Information System. Two primary care practices in Buffalo--Elmwood Health Center and Sweet Home Family Medicine--are participating and six hospitals are in the process of joining. Also in 2013 came a program for providers operating as medical homes for Medicaid patients to use the HIE platform to better coordinate care.

The HIE now has a newborn screening program in a beta phase, which will enable hospitals to report newborn bloodspot screening information on more than 40 inherited metabolic conditions to the state health department lab and receive results.

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