Health Information Exchanges are Vital to Pandemic Responses, Official Says

Joseph Marks | NextGov | May 17, 2011

State health information exchanges, which hold and collate electronic medical records, are vital to the federal government's ability to rapidly respond to a public health emergency, a Health and Human Services Department official told a Senate panel Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Health Education and Labor is considering reauthorizing legislation for the 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, which established Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie's position as a catchall organizer during public health emergencies.

Lurie's office published a National Health Security Strategy in 2009. Her office is working on the final draft of a Biennial Implementation Plan for that strategy, calling for increased reliance on the data provided by state-centered health information exchanges.

The federal government had invested more than $500 million in grants to states and territories to develop the necessary infrastructure for those exchanges as of January.