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HHS Awards HIE Funding to Boost Patient Data Exchange in Texas

Texas Health Services Authority and a regional health information exchange will utilize this funding to boost patient data exchange between immunization information systems and HIEs.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded funding to the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) and HASA, a regional health information exchange (HIE) in Texas, to improve patient data exchange between HIEs and immunization information systems. 

Under the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program, HHS and ONC awarded funding to HIEs across the country to boost HIE services and specifically vaccination services. As a result, their respective connected public health agencies can exchange, access, and utilize crucial patient data during public health emergencies. 

This funding aims to support communities that were hit hard by COVID-19.

Through this program, HHS can help public health agencies track and identify patients who need a second COVID-19 vaccination and also identify high-risk individuals who need a vaccination. STAR HIE also intends to provide statistics to measure vaccination outcomes, the agency noted.

"We are grateful to have received the supplemental award from the ONC STAR HIE Program, and it's a testament to the ability of THSA, HASA, and Audacious Inquiry to solve a critical data-sharing problem in our state and country through the SANER Project," said George Gooch, chief executive officer of THSA.

"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," Gooch continued.

Awardees can use 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 gaps in the vaccination system.

"The collaboration and synergies of these partners is a powerful combination that will help individuals receive critical vaccines," said Phil Beckett, chief executive officer at HASA. "We at HASA appreciate the federal funding and the opportunity to partner with THSA and Audacious Inquiry to contribute to a healthier Texas."

Accurate patient data and health information exchange are both crucial to deploying an effective vaccine strategy. Providers must know if a patient has received one or two vaccinations to allow for a coordinated rollout.

Accordingly, precise patient matching ensures the correct patient will get the correct vaccine and the patient will get two doses in the case of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The success of both will rely on providers, public health officials, and pharmacists having access to patient data, including vaccine records from databases.

The SANER Project is working with Audacious Inquiry to boost patient data sharing processes during COVID-19 and future public health emergencies.

"The work we are doing with THSA and HASA will improve vaccine distribution in the state of Texas," said Scott Afzal, president of Audacious Inquiry. "This effort will be part of our ongoing work to improve data collection, production, sharing, analysis, and will create what we truly need to track COVID-19: publicly available dashboards with national and state-level info on cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions."

Through this program, HHS and ONC will allocate roughly $20 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act, which was signed by President Trump in March 2020, aims to support the country’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

“These CARES Act funds will allow clinicians to better access information about their patients from their community immunization registries by using the resources of their local health information exchanges,” Don Rucker, MD, former national coordinator for health information technology, said in January.

“Through these collaborative efforts public health agencies and clinicians will be better equipped to more effectively administer immunizations to at-risk patients, understand adverse events, and better track long-term health outcomes as more Americans are vaccinated.”

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