Promoting Public Health with Rapid Data Exchange

Updated November 19, 2021

Detecting disease, containing outbreaks, and responding to public health emergencies starts with extracting critical data from electronic health records (EHR). Without rapid access to EHR data, it’s hard to develop strategies that can eliminate disease and improve public health. The Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services’ (CSELS) Public Health Informatics Office (PHIO) is streamlining data exchange through the Making EHR Data More Available for Research and Public Health project, also known as MedMorph. MedMorph aims to standardize the way health professionals access, transfer, and manage EHR data using a resource called the reference architecture implementation guide.

How It Works: Reference Architecture 101

The MedMorph reference architecture implementation guide addresses data exchange needs with a common, standardized approach and outlines how to use best practices to be more efficient. The MedMorph project builds on and expands previous data exchange work, like electronic case reporting and the use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®). The MedMorph reference architecture was developed with input from a technical expert panel. This panel is a diverse group of internal and external partners with subject matter expertise in various use cases as well as technical expertise in health information technology. The panel helped build flexibility in the reference architecture, so it removes the need to redevelop for each use case.

MedMorph adds value to public health and research in various ways, including:

  • Bringing together existing standards
  • Providing a model that any program may leverage for public health data needs
  • Saving time, effort, cost by reducing burden of data exchange

MedMorph in Motion

Early on, diverse and representative use cases covering hepatitis C (infectious disease), cancer (chronic disease), and health care surveys (healthcare utilization) informed the MedMorph reference architecture. Its use is now expanding to other disease-specific and non-disease areas. For example, the Multi-state EHR-based Network for Disease Surveillance (MENDS) pilot is a CDC project designed to determine if clinical data captured in EHR systems can yield reliable chronic disease estimates for public health surveillance.

The MedMorph project delivers a simple and consistent method for CDC programs to address data exchange issues.

To learn more, visit the MedMorph website or email