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HHS Makes $20 Million Available to Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Information Sharing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made $20 million available to improve data sharing between health information exchanges (HIEs) and immunization information systems.

The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) fund that was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020 to support vaccination efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investment expands the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)’s Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program and will help communities improve health information sharing related to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Public health agencies will be able to receive additional help to track and identify individuals who have not yet received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and the additional investment will help clinicians identify and contact high risk individuals who have not yet received their first vaccination.

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The additional investment will be spread across the country and will be used to support communities that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. The HHS will also be awarding funds to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) to improve HIE immunization collaborations.

“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 Don Rucker, MD, national coordinator for health information technology. “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.”

The success of vaccination programs is dependent on correctly identifying patients and ensuring patients receive two doses of the correct vaccine. That means providers, pharmacists, and public health officials will need access to patient data and vaccine records. Effective data exchange and patient matching will also help to provide insights into the effectiveness of the vaccines and tracking long term health outcomes. STAR HIE intends to provide statistics to measure vaccination outcomes.

There are approximately 100 HIEs in the United States which reach around 92% of Americans and 63 immunization information systems in the United States, one in each state, 8 in territories, and in five cities. The immunization information systems are funded, in part, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD).

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.