Virginia Department of Health and ConnectVirginia Build a Pathway to Meet Public Health Measures

Rachel Abbey; Debbie Condrey; Kimberly Lynch and Sandy McCleaf | September 16, 2014

In late 2013, three key health IT issues came to light in the Commonwealth of Virginia resulting in a synergistic partnership between public and private health care entities that now uses ConnectVirginia, Virginia’s Statewide Health Information Exchange (HIE), for public health reporting. 

First, health systems and providers across the commonwealth needed an easy and streamlined process to meet the electronic public health measures of Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs. Second, in light of those measures, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the agency responsible for public health measures, was anticipating an increase in electronic reporting and was exploring how it could best help providers implement and use electronic public health information. Third, in anticipation of the end of the ONC State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement program, ConnectVirginia began to identify additional services they could provide as a part of their sustainability planning.

Connecting Health Data

Today, ConnectVirginia supports VDH in meeting its mission to “promote and protect the health of all Virginians” by providing a free portal run by the statewide HIE, called the Public Health Reporting Pathway, that facilitates the electronic reporting of certain health-related data.

VDH receives electronic submissions for three public health-related areas—electronic laboratory reporting, immunizations, and syndromic surveillance. ConnectVirginia and VDH work collaboratively with hospitals and health care professionals to help them submit these data electronically through the HIE’s Public Health Reporting Pathway service and VDH staff work directly with providers to validate data structure as well as content for submission.

Meanwhile, ConnectVirginia’s role is to provide the necessary electronic transport mechanisms for public health data to be delivered to VDH. ConnectVirginia receives data directly from providers’ certified electronic health records through secure transport protocols (e.g., HTTPS or SFTP). Data are transacted directly to the appropriate receiving endpoint at VDH via a web service as specified by VDH.

Saving time = efficiency

This single connection saves providers valuable time and resources because they need only to connect to the Public Health Reporting Pathway service, regardless of the type of reportable public health data (laboratory reporting, immunizations, and syndromic surveillance), as opposed to three separate point-to-point connections. This also saves resources for VDH – there only needs to be three connection endpoints with ConnectVirginia, one for each type of reportable public health data, as opposed to three connections from each provider.  And for ConnectVirginia, building the connectivity among hospitals and health care professionals only enhances its value to the broader health care community.

As of early August, 2014 there are 20 health systems representing approximately 70 facilities using the portal, and we anticipate that as eligible providers attest to achieving their meaningful use requirements, more providers and facilities will connect to the pathway.

In the near future, VDH will transition all facilities, including those already connected via established VDH point-to-point connections, to the ConnectVirginia Public Health Reporting Pathway.

The result?  Seamless electronic public health reporting system for all providers across Virginia.