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Can Health Information Exchanges Improve Disease Reporting?

NWCPHP recently received a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to study how a new data-capture system designed for a health information exchange affects disease reporting.
Can Health Information Exchanges Improve Disease Reporting?

Janet Baseman, PhD, MPH

NWCPHP recently received a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to study how a new data-capture system designed for a health information exchange affects disease reporting.

October 25, 2012

NWCPHP faculty member Janet Baseman, PhD, MPH, and her team recently received a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). They will use the funds to study how a new data-capture system designed for a health information exchange affects disease reporting in Marion County, Indiana.

“There is a lot of federal money going into health information exchanges right now, but their potential impact on public health has been somewhat overlooked,” says Baseman. “I’m excited that our research project is one of very few that uses rigorous, quantitative methods to look at how this technology affects a classic public health function.”

In 2014, Marion County, Indiana will implement a new provider-based disease reporting process that will be linked with their health information exchange. The county hopes this will streamline, and thus improve, rates of provider-initiated reporting, which often hover around 10 percent.

So, why study Indiana? The timeline of this planned change presents an opportunity to gather one year of data on their current process, and then compare it to data collected after implementation of the new system. In addition, Indiana’s health information exchange is one of the most well established in the country, put in place almost 15 years ago.

After the data are collected, NWCPHP researchers will look for evidence of the new system’s effect on timeliness of provider-based reporting, communications between clinicians and disease investigators, and the rate of communicable disease reporting.

“At the end of this study, I hope we are able to unequivocally show, through quantitative methods, whether this system modification improves notifiable conditions reporting,” says Baseman.

While the research is focused on specific processes in Marion County, researchers hope that their conclusions will help inform other health departments as they begin integrating their own health information exchanges with public health functions.

This grant is one of seven that will study how recent operational changes in the US public health system impact its most critical functions. All seven awards are part of an RWJF initiative on natural experiments in public health delivery.

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