The magazine of the UW School of Public Health

Information-Sharing Partnerships Protect Health

Katherine Sabourin

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was passed with the goal of advancing health IT systems in public health departments and promoting the use of electronic health records across the country. The Northwest region, under the HITECH Act, is now involved in several health information technology projects that will help make data sharing within and among states an efficient reality. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in 2010, six states within the Northwest region received over $41 million to build health information exchange capabilities through the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program.

The HITECH Act also provides support for the adoption of electronic health records and health information technologies by health care providers and hospitals. In the Northwest region, four Regional Extension Centers were set up under the Health Information Technology Extension Program to supply medical care providers with training and technical assistance to switch from paper to electronic medical records.

Many public health departments are connected to electronic surveillance systems. One system, the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) was first implemented in 2001 with the goal of creating a nationally integrated web-based surveillance system framework that allows for data sharing in real time. To implement NEDSS, state and local health departments can choose to adopt systems created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and commercial vendors or develop their own compatible systems. Alaska and Washington are in the process of system development, and Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming are in the planning stages of system activation.

Electronic System
Alaska Idaho Montana Oregon Washington Wyoming Percent of
Percent of
US States
Electronic Syndromic
X* X   33.3 81.6
Communicable Disease
X X X X X   83.3 91.7
Mandatory Electronic
Cancer Registry
X* X X X X* X 100.0 85.4
Receives in real time,
electronic laboratory
communicable disease
X X X X   66.7 61.7

*Surveillance system/ registry has bidirectional reporting and exchange capability.
Data for table provided by ASTHO 2010 State and Territorial Public Health Survey


Katherine Sabourin, MPH, graduated from the University of Washington in 2011.


  1. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. About ONC. Last Updated: 10/20/2011. Available at:
  2. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement. Last Updated: 4/11/2012. Available at:
  3. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Listing of Regional Extension Centers. Last Updated: 1/31/2012. Available at:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public Health Information Network. National Electronic Disease Surveillance System. Last Updated: 2/7/2011. Available at:
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