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New HHS money to help expand vaccine data sharing

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is doling out some $20 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to boost COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The initiative is a new extension of ONC’s Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange, or STAR HIE, Program. The goal is to help communities improve information sharing related to vaccinations.

Public health agencies can get 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 invest in the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and CORHIO, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, to support immunization data sharing collaborations.

The money will help track vaccination progress, enable clinicians to contact high-risk patients, identify patients who need the second dose of the vaccine, and offer a data-driven means to measure vaccination outcomes – offering more detailed insights into potential adverse events and long-term health outcomes.

There are about 100 HIEs in the United States, reaching an estimated 92% of the U.S. population, according to the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative.

And there are more than five dozen immunization information systems across the U.S. – one in each state, eight in territories and one in five cities, according to ONC – funded in part through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Health information sharing has been a challenge since the beginning of the pandemic, but its importance has been amplified as the vaccines roll out.

IT system and data management challenges have hindered vaccine administration in some states, and a lack of federal support so far has forced providers and health agencies to get creative with ad hoc approaches of their own.

This past week, new Vaccination Credential Initiative was launched, bringing together a wide array of stakeholders – CARIN Alliance, Cerner, Change Healthcare, the Commons Project Foundation, Epic, Evernorth, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MITRE, Oracle, Safe Health and Salesforce – to collaborate on developing a standard model for organizations administering COVID-19 vaccines – helping to create a “trustworthy, traceable, verifiable, and universally recognized digital record of vaccination status.”

“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,” said Dr. Donald Rucker, national coordinator for health information technology, in a statement.

“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.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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