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HHS Awards Funding to Boost Patient Data Exchange in NY

Two regional health information exchanges in New York will leverage HHS funding to improve COVID-19 patient data exchange in their respective regions.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded funding to two regional health information exchanges in New York, Bronx RHIO and HEALTHeLINK, to enhance patient data exchange between HIEs and immunization information systems, according to a press release emailed to journalists.

Through the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program, HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) allocated funding to several HIEs in communities that were hit hard by the pandemic to improve patient data exchange and COVID-19 vaccination services.

The funding aims to help connected public health agencies access, utilize, and exchange critical patient data during public health emergencies. 

Through this program, HHS can help public health agencies track and identify patients who need a second Moderna or Pfizer vaccination and also identify high-risk individuals who need to begin a vaccine regimen. STAR HIE also plans to provide statistics to measure vaccination outcomes, the agency noted.

Bronx RHIO will use the funding to support public health agencies in identifying and to track individuals who need vaccinations in high-risk communities, the HIE explained. The funding will help the HIE identify high-risk individuals who have not been vaccinated, improve COVID-19 vaccination administration, monitor long-term vaccine-related health effects across populations, and measure vaccination patterns based on social determinants of health.  

“The Bronx RHIO is excited to work with ONC on this vital project to assist the City and State Departments of Health in ensuring vaccines reach those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, especially in the Bronx,” Kathy Miller, chief operating officer of Bronx RHIO, said in the statement.

“Our work on this project will build upon the close collaboration that the Bronx RHIO has had with local health departments since the beginning of the pandemic in providing data on COVID-19 testing, recovery, related hospitalizations and vaccination status."

With the funding, HEALTHeLINK intends to develop COVID-19 technologies to assess immunization statuses for individuals in Buffalo and several other western New York counties, the HIE said. The HIE will also deliver patient monitoring to vaccinated individuals and provide clinicians with COVID-19 EHR alert notifications for patient immunization statuses, hospital admissions, and COVID-19 test statuses.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak began early last year, HEALTHeLINK has been working closely with county and New York State health departments along with our participating providers to offer HIE services which continue to support epidemiology, surveillance, and other community modeling and response efforts,” said Dan Porreca, executive director at HEALTHeLINK.

“This project is the next step in COVID-19 response efforts, focusing on patient immunizations to enable providers and public health partners to more effectively track vaccination progress and measure vaccination outcomes.”

HHS and ONC will distribute roughly $20 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Among other things, the CARES Act aims to support the country’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Earlier this month, HHS awarded funding to Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) and HASA, a regional HIE in Texas.

THSA said it will utilize the funds to obtain health IT to track individual vaccination progress, help identify patients who need the second dose of the vaccine, and limit clinician contact with high-risk patients through THSA’s Situational Awareness Network for Emergencies (SANER) Project dashboard.

The SANER dashboard helps state officials track vaccination progress and evaluate potential fragments in the vaccination system.

“With access to additional information on vaccine rates in the capacity tracking platform, Texas will be able to prioritize the highest risk communities and populations and see the full picture of where the most need exists,” said George Gooch, chief executive officer of THSA.

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