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Public Health Information Network (PHIN)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Harmonizing the Public Health Information Network (PHIN), the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS), and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement for Case Notification

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from Reporting Jurisdictions

1. What is the Public Health Information Network (PHIN)?

PHIN is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative to establish and support shared policies, standards, practices, and services that facilitate efficient public health information access, exchange, use, and collaboration among public health agencies and with their clinical and other partners.

2. What is the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS)?

NNDSS is a state-based public health surveillance system for infectious conditions designated by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) as nationally notifiable. The NNDSS is operated by CDC in collaboration with CSTE. All 50 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, and 5 U.S. Territories report data to this system. The NNDSS data are compiled from case notifications sent to CDC from reporting jurisdictions each week. Electronic transmission of case notifications improves the timeliness, completeness and ease of notification, data sharing, and epidemiological analysis. This allows public health to respond more quickly and with more information on which to base decisions. At the federal and state level, these data are used for monitoring disease trends, evaluating the effectiveness of prevention and control activities, program planning and evaluation, and policy development.

3. What is the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement?

The PHEP cooperative agreement supports preparedness nationwide in state, local, tribal, and territorial public health departments. The PHEP cooperative agreement provides funding to build and upgrade the preparedness infrastructure of public health departments to improve their ability to respond to the public health consequences of not only terrorist threats, but also infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological emergencies.

4. What is the relationship between PHIN, NNDSS, the PHEP cooperative agreement, and case notification?

The PHEP cooperative agreement supports core surveillance capabilities. NNDSS is a core, routine surveillance activity that utilizes PHIN standards for electronic transmission of case notification data from reporting jurisdictions to CDC.

5. When will new PHIN Case Notification Message Mapping Guides (MMGs) be released?

A MMG to allow standardized (HL7) case notifications for conditions currently sent in the older National Electronic Telecommunications System for Surveillance (NETSS) format (with the exception of sexually transmitted diseases) was released for comment in April 2011. The MMG will cover core data elements and disease-specific data elements currently sent via the NETSS extended record layout. Release of additional disease-specific MMGs will follow. The order and timing of these disease-specific guides will be prioritized through a governance process with representation from the Public Health Surveillance Program Office (PHSPO), the Public Health Informatics and Technology Program Office (PHITPO), the Office of Infectious Diseases (OID), and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE).

6. Why are some MMGs posted on the PHIN website ( and then removed?

As CDC Program surveillance needs change, MMGs are revised or replaced accordingly. For example, the H1N1 influenza MMG was removed after H1N1 was no longer a novel Influenza A virus.

7. How are new MMGs and other PHIN specifications disseminated?

The document, “Event Codes and Reporting Mechanisms” is published on the PHIN website ( and updated every year. This document lists all event codes, the mechanisms for reporting to CDC, and which MMGs to use for each condition. State National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) Coordinators are also a resource for information regarding MMGs. Other PHIN specifications are published to the PHIN website and continually updated.

8. Why is PHIN Certification recommended?

PHIN Certification ensures that messages sent to CDC, including case notifications, meet the data and exchange standards published in the CDC MMGs. Standardization of surveillance data can facilitate integration and linking of data across reporting jurisdictions and CDC Programs to generate new knowledge that may be ultimately used to improve public health outcomes. Standardization also promotes the ability to choose with confidence between different software applications sold by multiple vendors. In addition, PHIN Certification will facilitate the alignment of public health information exchange with other standards-based health information exchange efforts at the national level. Such national efforts include the Nationwide Health Information Network, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), and Electronic Health Records (EHR) Meaningful Use initiatives promoted by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

9. What PHIN Certifications are currently being offered?

PHIN Direct Alerting
PHIN Cascade Alerting
PHIN Varicella Case Notification Message - Send
PHIN TB Case Notification Message - Send
PHIN Generic Case Notification Message -Send
PHIN LRN-B Results Messaging

10. Will additional PHIN Certifications be offered in the future?

Yes. Additional PHIN Certifications will be offered in the future based on the needs of CDC Programs.

11. What are the new PHEP cooperative agreement requirements for PHIN Certification?

Although the PHEP cooperative agreement does not explicitly require PHIN Certification, it does state that “plans should include procedures to move to electronic case notification using CDC’s Public Health Information Network Case Notification Message Mapping Guides.”

12. Will NNDSS validation and PHIN Certification for case notifications continue to be separate processes in the future?

No, PHITPO and NNDSS program staff are working together to revise the current PHIN Certification process so that PHIN Certification, NNDSS review, and CDC Program review will result in one process with minimal burden on reporting jurisdictions.

13. What is the difference between PHIN Certification and Electronic Health Record (EHR) Technology Certification?

PHIN Certification is granted by CDC to the 62 PHEP awardees. The capability of the public health agency to exchange data electronically using PHIN requirements, standards, and criteria is evaluated. EHR Technology Certification is granted by an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology-Authorized Testing and Certification Body (ONC-ATCB) to EHR systems used by eligible professionals and eligible hospitals under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs. EHR Technology Certification is granted to support the meaningful use of EHR. In short, EHR Technology Certification applies to EHR systems used by eligible professionals and hospitals while PHIN Certification applies to messages sent by public health agencies. More information about EHR Technology Certification can be found at the following website:

14. Where is more information about PHIN and PHEP located?

More information about PHIN can be found at the PHIN website: More information about PHEP can be found at the PHEP website:



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