Hospital first to send e-reports in Mass.

A Boston-area hospital system announced yesterday it is the first in Massachusetts to implement electronic reporting of communicable diseases to the state public health department.

Cambridge Health Alliance, which operates three hospitals and 20 physician's offices on the north side of Boston, is using the Internet for secure transmissions of reports drawn from the laboratory information system.

The new system delivers the information to state epidemiologists within a day. The automated reporting system also improves the completeness of required reports while reducing the labor required to prepare the reports and send them to state officials.

Most hospitals nationwide are still using phone, e-mail or fax to report communicable diseases to health authorities. According to a report on the Web site of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, 'an estimated 50 percent of public health laboratories lack the capacity to exchange any electronic laboratory data with partners.' However, that situation is changing, according to the association.

Although many of the labs with some electronic communication capability use non-standard communications, a push for standardization of the terminology is under way, the association report states.

In the wake of the anthrax outbreaks and other bioterrorism threats, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working with state and local public health authorities to increase their ability to communicate electronically.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said outbreaks of foodborne illness and infectious diseases are being detected faster now, thanks to the technology, and more outbreaks are being detected because illnesses in scattered locations can be recognized as part of a single outbreak.

Nancy Ferris is a senior editor of Government Computer News' affiliate publication, Government Health IT.

About the Author

Nancy Ferris is senior editor of Government Health IT.


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