The Erie County Department of Health in New York is seeing significant improvements in epidemiology and disease surveillance--specifically sexually transmitted diseases--by leveraging HEALTHeLINK, a health information exchange serving the greater Buffalo, N.Y. region.

“Having secure access to public health statistics and other data provides our public health practitioners with important and timely information to help them understand where we need to focus our attention in providing healthcare resources and education,” said Gale Burstein, M.D., ECDOH commissioner. “Our ongoing prevention efforts related to STDs have been aided by our collaboration with HEALTHeLINK which has become a valuable tool in our efforts to provide the public with more efficient care.”

Through HEALTHeLINK, ECDOH has been able to more accurately and efficiently improve its STD case reporting and contact tracing system. The percentage of reported chlamydia cases with unknown treatment in Erie County decreased from 46 percent in 2006 to 8 percent in 2012.

In addition, HEALTHeLINK use results in more STD contacts brought into care to prevent the spread of disease throughout the community. This marks a 27 percent increase since HEALTHeLINK use began. During this same time frame, reported gonorrhea cases with unknown treatment decreased from 19 percent to 4 percent. In 2013 in Erie County, there were approximately 4,897 reported chlamydia and 1,060 gonorrhea cases.

These efficiencies have led to a reduction in time that it takes for disease intervention specialists to identify treatment requests, cases, and contacts. ECDOH epidemiology staff and disease intervention specialists use HEALTHeLINK to access lab, radiology, medication and demographic data to determine if appropriate STD treatment is administered and to monitor demographic and contact information on STD cases and their partners.

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