To calculate average savings of using health information exchange for demographic and treatment requests for chlamydia and gonorrhea in Western New York, specifically the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) and its catchment area, the DOH and HEALTHeLINK, a regional HIE in Western New York, partnered with research organization RTI International.The 2012 results, which were recently published in Health Information Management Journal, highlight the time savings associated with HEALTHeLINK usage, which led to improved productivity. ECDOH was able to expand its area of disease investigation without any increase in work hours or budget, and expand disease control and partner services to additional residents who may have been missed prior to HEALTHeLINK use, according to officials.

Per the study results, HEALTHeLINK utilization led to a reduction in the time that it takes for ECDOH’s disease intervention specialists to identify treatment requests, cases and contacts. After staff receives notification of positive communicable disease laboratory test results via the New York State Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting Surveillance (ECLRS) system, they access HEALTHeLINK to obtain additional clinical, demographic, laboratory, and treatment data to determine if appropriate STI treatment is administered and to monitor demographic and contact information on STI cases and their partners.

Because of the very limited information available from clinical laboratory reports, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of ECLRS reports contain incomplete patient demographic and contact information. However, these patient data can be found in HEALTHeLINK for 99 percent of cases. Prior to HEALTHeLINK, these data were obtained through a manual process of contacting multiple data sources, officials noted.

“Antibiotics can cure chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, left untreated, they put men and women at risk for severe, lifelong health outcomes like chronic pain, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, and HIV,” Gale Burstein, M.D., Erie County Commissioner of Health, said in a statement. “The ability to ensure adequate STI treatment and efficiently locate and notify exposed partners to get them into care will cut the chain of transmission and reduce the disease burden for the entire community.”

With the use of HEALTHeLINK, ECDOH was also able to significantly increase both reported chlamydia and gonorrhea treatment rates to more than 90 percent in 2013, only one year after routine HEALTHeLINK utilization. In addition to STIs, ECDOH also uses HEALTHeLINK to investigate cases of hepatitis B, tuberculosis and potential rabies exposures as well as using clinical data to measure overall population health and target disease areas that may need further education or access to treatment.

“We are thrilled to see another example and associated evidence of the value of HEALTHeLINK and the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY) here in Western New York,” said Daniel Porreca, HEALTHeLINK’s executive director. “With utilizing health information exchange for instant access to health information, providers can deliver more timely and effective care. These savings are having a significant impact on our population’s health, with resources able to be redirected for expanded awareness and proactive treatment.”

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The use of health information exchange (HIE) for support treatment and management of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) can save public health staff time spent on obtaining demographic and treatment information, according to newly published research.