Indiana public health data first to be sent through national health network

The exchange between the state and the CDC marks a milestone in the development of the National Health Information Network.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Oct. 14, 2010

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For the first time, public health information has been transmitted using the National Health Information Network.

The Regenstrief Institute, a health care research organization affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine that has been a major contributor to the design of the NHIN, sent the public health data on behalf of the Indiana State Dept. of Health. The data were collected electronically from 76 emergency departments throughout the state. The deidentified data included information on new cases of influenza, pneumonia and influenza-type illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September received the public health information.

The NHIN is a virtual network made up of health information technology systems designed to talk to one another to share data electronically, in real time, between health care organizations and health departments across the country.

Officials say widespread use of the NHIN to report public data will result in more timely identification of public health outbreaks because it can be sent much more quickly than non-automated methods of data collection, which can take several weeks to process.

"Leading health information applications like the National Health Information Network can have significant, positive impact on public health in Indiana by revolutionizing the way the state Dept. of Health and our partners, such as CDC and Regenstrief, share and report data," Gregory Larkin, MD, Indiana state health commissioner, said in a prepared statement.

The nation's regional health information organizations are considered the backbone of the developing NHIN. The Regenstrief Institute played a significant role in developing the Indiana Health Information Exchange, an Indianapolis-based RHIO considered a role model for other RHIOs. In 2009, IHIE and HealthLINC of Bloomington, Ind., began sharing data across state lines when they connected with HealthBridge in Cincinnati.

Another significant milestone for the NHIN was reached in 2009, when the Social Security Administration began connecting with MedVirginia, a RHIO serving central Virginia, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. It was the first step in a larger effort to connect the SSA with multiple health information exchanges so it could collect data to be used for the disability benefit approval process. SSA expanded the program in March by awarding 15 contracts with other exchanges totaling more than $17 million.

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