Immunization information systems, or registries, have been around for more than 20 years but they are now focused on interoperability with electronic health records, creating a comprehensive immunization database to better track vaccinations.

To be valuable, immunization information systems must receive and contain data that is timely, accurate, and complete. Run by state, city or regional public health agencies, these population-based systems include all vaccination doses administered by participating providers to people within a given area and consolidate vaccinations administered by different providers into a single electronic record. Depending on state laws, schools and health plans also participate in these systems.

In the past, clinic staff manually entered immunization data directly into the software. However, according to the American Immunization Registry Association, real-time data exchange between immunization systems and EHRs is eliminating many of the previous challenges.

“Immunization information systems serve as a model for how information systems can benefit public health,” states an Aug. 27 blog from the American Immunization Registry Association posted on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s website. “Recent federal initiatives, such as the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs which provide financial incentives for the meaningful use of certified EHR technology, have focused on the interoperability between immunization information systems and EHRs while continuing to support the fundamental needs of immunization programs and public health initiatives.”

One of the challenges is getting providers to commit to contributing to and using the data from their regional or state immunization information systems. “As more providers use these systems the goal of interoperability will be achieved, which will ultimately allow immunization providers to work more efficiently, identify patients due for immunizations faster, and ensure that people get the vaccinations they need when they need them,” states the blog.

Though the American Immunization Registry Association acknowledges there are still challenges in terms of interoperability between immunization information systems and EHRs, the organization says “there is great progress too.”

In related news, several states are currently involved in a pilot program that allows parents to gain direct online access to their children’s immunization records. ONC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched the project in five states--Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Washington and West Virginia--that connects a secure web-based portal to immunization data that can be made available to both healthcare providers and consumers.

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