Public health syndromic surveillance using inpatient or ambulatory clinical care data is a relatively new practice. As eligible professionals and hospitals adopt, implement, and upgrade their EHR systems through the CMS EHR Incentive programs (a.k.a., Meaningful Use programs), there is an opportunity for public health authorities to routinely receive health data from settings other than emergency departments and urgent care centers. Public health surveillance, and other key stakeholders, can play an important role in determining how to advance syndromic surveillance practice through Meaningful Use policy.
Given the number of factors and complex relationships that affect EHR data quality, a collaborative approach that includes public health, healthcare and EHR technology developers is the best way to determine how EHR data can be meaningfully used for surveillance. In late-2010, ISDS convened a group of syndromic surveillance experts, and gathered significant stakeholder input to develop guidelines and standards for syndromic surveillance using Emergendy Department and Urgent Care patient encounter data. These recommendations have been translated into a Public Heatlh Information Network Messaging Guide for Syndromic Surveillance, that is being used by the Office of the Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to clarify the public health surveillance measure.