CDC grant creates Indiana Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics

By Bernie Monegain
09:49 PM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded a $4.8 million grant to researchers at Indiana University and the Regenstrief Institute to create the Indiana Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics, one of only four such centers in the nation.

The other centers are located at the University of Utah, the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Massachusetts.

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

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 data visualization group at IU- Bloomington.

"We are very excited to draw upon the broad expertise of these diverse groups," said Shaun Grannis, MD, a 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 healthcare, we minimize development costs and rapidly implement technology that delivers real-world value to public health."

Grannis. the center's director, said it will be 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 identifying infants who lack newborn screening by improving electronic exchange of newborn screening results; improving the exchange of immunization data between physicians and public health agencies to prevent both under- and over immunization; and expanding the ability to identify cases and events of potential interest to public health officials and ensure instant delivery of public health alerts to physicians and other healthcare providers.

Much of this work will employ DOCS4DOCS, a clinical messaging service developed by Regenstrief's healthcare information technology professionals and operated by the Indiana Health Information Exchange. DOCS4DOCS delivers more than 5 million messages with information, such as laboratory or other test results.

"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 workflow will increasingly be the model for bi-directional public health data exchange," said Grannis.