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HHS Awards Funds to Expand Immunization Information Sharing Collaboration

The US Department of Health and Human Services acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) recently announced a series of investments to help increase data sharing between health information exchanges (HIEs) and immunization information systems.

ONC will award nearly $20 million in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, to support the nation’s vaccination efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The projects will build on and expand ONC’s Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program by helping communities improve the sharing of health information related to vaccinations. Through these collaborations, public health agencies can get additional help tracking and identifying patients who have yet to receive their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and better identify those who may be high-risk who have not yet received a vaccination. ONC will also award funds to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and CORHIO, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, to support immunization-related HIE collaborations.

“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,” says Don Rucker, MD, national coordinator for HIT. “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.”

The new investments will provide opportunities to track vaccination progress, help clinicians contact high-risk patients, and help identify patients due to receive the second dose of the vaccine. It will also help provide a statistically and clinically robust way to measure vaccination outcomes. In collaboration with HIEs, the ability to individually correlate every patient who has received the vaccine with all of their clinical data both pre- and postvaccination could offer more detailed insight into any adverse events and long-term health outcomes than is currently possible.

There are currently 63 immunization information systems across the United States, one in each state, eight in territories, and in five cities. They are funded in part by through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Currently, there are approximately 100 HIE organizations in the United States reaching an estimated 92% of the US population, according to the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, the national trade association for HIEs.

Source: Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology