​​​​​​​​​​Spring 2017

Helping clients develop secure and effective electronic data exchange systems

Photo: APHL's Dave Sanderson (left) and Riki Merrick (center) with North Dakota Department of Public Health - Division Laboratory Services' Brett Stenberg during a TA site visit for PHLIP

Public health is revolutionizing systems to speed delivery of mission-critical data required for prevention and control of health threats.  

At APHL, the Informatics Technical Assistance (TA) team applies its creative talents to help clients develop secure, effective systems for electronic exchange of public health data. Its help desk serves as information central for public health laboratories, health agencies and other partners seeking answers to requests ranging from simple queries-how to set up a new Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) or install equipmentto complex requests that require months to research, design and implement solutions.

The TA team's services are extensive and diverse. Terminology standards and coding, surveillance efficiencies, technical architecture, systems integration and onboarding to APHL's Informatics Messaging Services (AIMS) platform are all part of the team's portfolio. These services are supported with a flexible model that allows activities to be scaled up or down to meet changing needs.

Currently the TA team is working with the CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network (ARLN) to develop a national reporting system for antibiotic resistance susceptibility testing data. The system will support 55 laboratories, including seven ARLN regional testing labs (MD, MN, NY, TN, TX, WA, WI), and will involve six pathogens, several data flows, direct and community-based TA support, and development of two portals hosted on the APHL Informatics Messaging Service (AIMS) designed to streamline data exchange. 

Also in support of the ARLN, the TA team is implementing an Electronic Test Order and Result portal at five regional labs (MD, TN, TX, WA, WI). Using this portal, public health laboratories will be able to submit test orders to ARLN regional labs and access result reports. Regional laboratories, in turn, will be able to anticipate the volume of incoming specimens and adjust testing schedules accordingly using a portal information feed. Using HL7 messaging, they will share data securely and without cumbersome LIMS-to-LIMS interfacing.

Yet the TA team's role is not limited to informatics consulting. As they guide partners through system troubleshooting, design and implementation, they teach the art and science of public health informatics, instilling confidence in their clients who move on to tackle more advanced informatics challenges.