Leveraging Health IT in the Fight Against Zika
To combat the devastating effects of Zika virus, ONC aims to make it possible for public health laboratories (PHLs) to send and receive a standard pregnancy status with electronic lab orders. ONC is partnering with CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories to make it possible for PHLs and electronic health records to share information with each other using HL7 messaging and web-based tools. Currently, most providers and public health labs cannot share information electronically, which hinders the ability to track public health data effectively.
Once a technology solution is created that links PHLs and electronic health record technology, that same solution will prove beneficial for tracking other pregnancy-related conditions such as HIV, hepatitis B, etc.
Importance of Health IT in Collecting Zika Data
ONC and CMS are assisting state Medicaid agencies to use health information exchange and specialized registries to access and report Zika diagnoses and other conditions.
Health information exchange can facilitate an effective strategy to help combat Zika, including:
- Case management
- Public health reporting
- Laboratory testing
- Clinical data collection
- Case investigation and management
- Reporting of outcomes
Piloting a Tracking Solution
The ONC Zika tracking pilot uses a web-based platform to facilitate electronic lab order and results between electronic health records (EHRs) and the laboratory information management systems (LIMS) of the public health labs. The web-based platform already exists, but the interfaces between the EHRs/platform and the platform/LIMS don’t exist.
To expand on the already-built system, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) will consult with programming experts, state health officials, and state epidemiologists on requirements, ideal operation, and future scalability and extensibility. Over the course of the project, the team will implement initial instances of the project in Texas and Florida, states hardest hit by the Zika crisis, with a look to extending the system to a regional and national level.