Lab Matters Fall 2019 - Page 7

INFORMATICS The Evolution of Informatics Technical Assistance by Laura Carlton, manager, Informatics; Melanie Kourbage, MA, J Michael Consulting and Rachel Shepherd, specialist, Informatics Over the past decade, APHL has delivered technical assistance (TA) to public health laboratories, public health agencies and their partners to strengthen technical infrastructure, improve data management capabilities and implement new data exchanges. The original TA model design focused on providing one-on-one support, usually on site with a public health partner. Taking the lessons learned over the past 10 years, APHL has developed some innovative new strategies to deliver technical assistance. Working Together One of our most successful new models is the “cohort approach,” which involves working simultaneously with multiple jurisdictions that are implementing the same data exchange, instead of maintaining several one-off engagements. With this model, APHL’s TA team is able to guide a group of jurisdictions (anywhere from 4–10, depending on the project) through the onboarding process and into production within 3-6 months. The cohort approach works well for projects where a large number of public health laboratories or agencies need to implement the same message feed over a given timeframe. This group-style approach carries several benefits. The TA team, jurisdiction representatives and other stakeholders have a single meeting on their calendar rather than scattered check-ins with each jurisdiction. The TA team’s project manager facilitates regular check-ins to discuss progress and work through any challenges encountered. Whether the messaging recipient is a web portal on AIMS or a processing system at CDC, project sponsors and subject matter experts can effectively communicate updates to all parties, troubleshoot PublicHealthLabs @APHL issues and answer questions in real-time. Furthermore, the peer-to-peer discussions that happen spontaneously lead to fruitful exchanges of resources and tools. Each member of the cohort is working toward the same milestones, and jurisdictions often are spurred to meet target dates as a result of healthy competition. But the ultimate goal of the cohort is to prepare all of the participants for onboarding and going into production. What’s Next In addition to the cohort approach, which allows for the greatest breadth of public health engagement, APHL currently services four additional technical assistance models that range from guidance and tool development to one-on-one, hands-on support for a specific need. All of these models support virtual or on-site technical assistance, depending on the timing and complexity of the project. Each project is different, and the type and amount of technical assistance needed and provided can vary drastically depending on a laboratory’s resources and technical infrastructure. APHL Technical Assistance began in 2008 to facilitate electronic transmission of flu surveillance data from laboratories to CDC. Since then, the technical assistance program has grown into a multi-faceted and systematic initiative, providing multiple levels of support in project management, business analysis, terminology, technical architecture, system integration, database development and informatics training. For any given project, the support needed determines the type and number of subject matter experts. In total, APHL has more than 20 team members working to advance laboratory data exchange capabilities. To date, APHL has provided assistance in some capacity to every state public health laboratory and nearly every state public health agency, as well as many local public health laboratories and clinical partners. All this is possible thanks to an intricate network of support behind the scenes. n If you have a question or issue and would like to see if APHL can help, please contact Fall 2019 LAB MATTERS 5