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Attacking Emerging Health Risks Through Innovative Health Information Technology

Shaun Grannis, M.D.
Shaun Grannis, M.D.

Published:

October 6, 2009

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Researchers from Indiana University and the Regenstrief Institute, with its world-renowned medical informatics research group and regional health information exchange, have been awarded a $4.8 million grant by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create the Indiana Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics, one of only four such centers in the nation.

The five-year award builds upon the unique capabilities of the Indiana Network for Patient Care to securely exchange health information when and where needed for purposes of health care treatment. INPC, developed by Regenstrief physician-researchers, currently allows medical providers across the state to securely obtain patients' medical histories, providing information critical to patient care. Nowhere else in the nation can this be done.

The new center also brings together the expertise of the Polis Center, a national leader in community-based and public health research and applications using geographic information technologies; the Indiana State Health Department; the Marion County (Ind.) Health Department; the IU School of Medicine's Department of Public Health; the Department of Geography in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; IUPUI’s Center for Health Geographics, and a unique data visualization group at IU Bloomington.

"We are very excited to draw upon the broad expertise of these diverse groups,” said Shaun Grannis, M.D., Regenstrief Institute investigator and IU School of Medicine assistant professor of family medicine. “With the addition of their input plus our extensive work in informatics and biosurveillance, we can leverage Regenstrief's strengths in truly novel ways to improve the health of our community and eventually the nation. And by building on existing proven technology already used for clinical health care, we minimize development costs and rapidly implement technology that delivers real-world value to public health." Dr. Grannis is director of the new center.

The new multidisciplinary center is the first to take this comprehensive approach to expand and develop innovative public health information tools to improve patient care.

Areas of initial work by the center include: (1) identifying infants who lack newborn screening by improving electronic exchange of newborn screening results; (2) improving exchange of immunization data between physicians and public health agencies to prevent both under- and over- immunization; and (3) expanding ability to identify cases and events of potential interest to public health officials and to ensure instant delivery of public health alerts to physicians and other health-care providers.

Much of this work will utilize DOCS4DOCS®, a clinical messaging service developed by Regenstrief’s health-care information technology professionals and operated by the Indiana Health Information Exchange, one of the nation’s most respected health information exchange organizations. Currently DOCS4DOCS delivers more than five million messages with information, such as laboratory or other test results, critical to patient care.

“The two-way communication model we have developed to send critical data such as lab test results to public health officials and to convey public health alerts to doctors in a fashion that is seamlessly integrated into their work flow will increasingly be the model for bi-directional public health data exchange,” said Dr. Grannis.

The other Centers of Excellence in Public Health Informatics established by the CDC are located at the University of Utah, the University of Pittsburgh, and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.