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Published on 9 October 2009

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Cerner clients connect to fight spread of influenza


The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are collaborating with Cerner to create the Flu Pandemic Initiative, a secure, HIPAA-compliant, rapid detection network for the influenza virus, including H1N1.

The new initiative will supply each state’s public health department, Cerner clients and the CDC with situational awareness information to help communities triage resources. Currently it takes up to four days to aggregate this information, now it can be available in near-real time.

“We face a situation fraught with uncertainty. However, with assistance from organisations such as you and your clients, we will prepare for whatever comes our way,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a letter to Cerner.

“We look forward to engaging with you further in the critical days and months ahead.”

Through the Flu Pandemic Initiative, Cerner can provide public health organisations and Cerner clients with valuable near real-time data to assist in monitoring health trends and to help officials more rapidly deploy resources to contain the influenza virus.

The initiative will not replace existing public health reporting requirements, but it will help all participants and other public health organisations make decisions based on summarised information from an integrated, national, Cerner-based network of clinical systems.

Public health experts suggest the likelihood of a severe H1N1 outbreak in the US this fall is significant — a scenario that could place unprecedented demands on our public health system and result in greater levels of serious illness and death.

“The CDC told us that before now, this data would have taken days to compile and would have already been out of date as soon as it was released,” said Neal Patterson, Cerner chairman and CEO.

“There is a better way. We connect more than 30 percent of healthcare to track the spread of influenza and to provide analytical data to enable a more rapid response.”

Cerner’s clients, who represent one-third of the US healthcare system, have agreed to feed summarised, non patient-specific, HIPAA compliant data into specially designed software that will aggregate and organise it for use nationally, as well as locally and regionally. Cerner is providing the software, aggregation and dissemination services without charge to the providers and government officials. Currently more than 700 facilities in 46 US states have agreed to participate; more than 200 are already contributing data.

“There are few companies that have the broad national reach that we have. Cerner is leading this significant effort to help track, manage and respond to the influenza virus because it’s the right thing to do,” said Patterson.

“By gathering in near real-time, it is our hope that the agencies and healthcare professionals fighting this disease will be better prepared to contain it and save more lives.”

“Being a part of a nationwide network that can allow us to see where flu hot spots are in near real time will be very valuable in helping us anticipate healthcare needs in the communities we serve,” said Terrence O’Rourke, chief clinical officer and executive vice president of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems with 45 hospitals in eight states.

“This integrated network will help healthcare providers across the United States understand when demand for services will likely spike, be ready to meet that increased demand and provide quality care to their patients.”

O’Rourke added that data will be shared via a secured network to ensure the confidentiality of personally identifiable patient information.


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