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No. 4, 2008

Data Management and Statistics Branch Update

2008 Public Health Information Network (PHIN) Conference

The 6th Annual Public Health Information Network (PHIN) Conference was held in Atlanta, GA, August 24–28, 2008, at the Westin Peachtree Hotel. The theme for this years’ conference was Public Health Informatics: Collaboration at the Crossroads. The conference brought together public health and information technology professionals from across the United States and some foreign countries. Attendees came from international, national, state and local public health agencies; colleges and universities; nonprofit organizations; and private corporations. Attendees had many presentations from which to choose, with topics including electronic lab reports (ELR), electronic health records (EHR), open-source software, surveillance systems, messaging, and project management. Several of these presentations were in reference to TB. The OntoReason group gave a presentation on their Content Validation Reasoner (CVR), which is an automated reasoning system. The CVR will be used to validate TB data sent to CDC by states using different surveillance systems. If the data are incorrect or missing, the CVR will send an alert back to that state to notify them of the error. This will help to ensure that our TB data are accurate and complete.

During the conference, the state of Illinois Department of Public Health announced it had received a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Davies Award of Excellence for their development and implementation of the Illinois National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS). This is the system that Illinois will use to replace TIMS to report their TB cases to CDC.

Some sessions at the conference were devoted to the launch of several communities of practice (CoPs).  The six CoPs were PHIN, Enterprise Architecture, InfoLinks, Electronic Lab Reporting, Outbreak Management, and Vocabulary and Messaging. These CoPs were set up to allow professionals in these areas to share information and new strategies, and to solve problems more efficiently. These CoPs were very popular among conference attendees.

Exhibit booths were set up by many companies and organizations to demonstrate their software applications and other products. There was also a poster session, at which abstracts were presented by public health and information technology professionals and students from around the country. One poster of particular interest was presented by the Wisconsin Department of Public Health with the Atlas Development Corporation, on the topic of implementing an HL7 message.  (HL7, or Health Level 7, is a nonprofit organization that is developing standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information). This poster was very relevant and useful for those states in the process of creating an HL7 message to transfer their TB data to CDC in 2009. Overall, the conference was informative and well-attended.

—Reported by Bruce Bradley, MPA
Div of TB Elimination


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