New Tool Available for Requesting Informatics Technical Assistance
By Rachel Shepherd , specialist , Informatics and Brooke Beaulieu , lead specialist , Informatics
Since 2008 , APHL has delivered technical assistance ( TA ) to public health laboratories , public health agencies and their clinical partners to strengthen infrastructure , improve data management capabilities and expand data exchange capacity . Originally developed to help jurisdictions electronically transmit their influenza surveillance data to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
( CDC ) in a standardized format , the TA program has evolved to support dozens of use cases and help jurisdictions fill gaps by providing support in project management , business analysis , terminology , technical architecture , system integration , database development and informatics training .
Responding to a Changing Informatics Landscape
As TA expanded , so has the need for a streamlined and systematic process for receiving and prioritizing TA requests . Historically , requests were received in a variety of ways : some were sent to the Informatics Help Desk and ticketing system , others e-mailed to known contacts and colleagues , or requests were routed through and dictated by CDC , often through different divisions . However , as more requests came in over time , this ad-hoc process became unwieldy . And when COVID-19
struck , public health laboratories and agencies faced not only an overwhelming volume of data , but also the demand to share it in near real-time . This required an immediate overhaul of the TA program to organize and accommodate this unprecedented need for support during a time when there was not a moment to spare , because any delay could postpone crucial public health action .
APHL ’ s TA team immediately implemented changes in its internal processes to eliminate redundancy and capitalize on economies of scale . Similar requests were lumped together to form cohorts across partners . In addition , requests had to be received in the same place so that the TA team could effectively triage , seeing the full breadth of needs instead of having a grasp of only a couple things at a time . In this way , TA could be deployed once instead of multiple times across public health .
An Opportunity for Innovation
The Data Modernization Initiative ( DMI ) is a long-term , $ 1 billion-plus effort to modernize core data and surveillance infrastructure across the federal and state public health landscape . By eliminating
To date , APHL has provided technical assistance to every state public health laboratory and public health agency , as well as many local public health laboratories and clinical partners .
silos in infrastructure , workforce and systems , and investing in comprehensive streamlined solutions , our nation will be more connected , more resilient and better equipped to prevent and respond to emergencies . As laboratories and agencies rethink and revamp their workflows , infrastructure and workforce under DMI , APHL is considering how TA can best support and meet their needs .
With lessons learned from the COVID-19 response and internal changes made to the TA process , APHL and CDC recently launched a new TA form to have one source that is visible to all . Laboratories and agencies in need of TA can now enter their requests in one place and APHL can route appropriately ( instead of the requestor determining who and how to ask ). In this centralized location , all the right people are looking in one spot , which makes triaging , tracking , follow-up and coordination much more streamlined and efficient .
As public health laboratories and agencies identify existing and emerging needs for informatics support , they can submit a request using the new APHL Technical Assistance Request Form
. APHL and CDC coordinate to provide TA for :
• Electronic laboratory reporting ( ELR )
• Cross -jurisdictional data exchange ( State-to-State InterPartner ELR )
• Case notifications and message mapping guides ( NNDSS )
• Data Modernization Initiative ( DMI )
• Electronic case reporting ( eCR )
• Electronic test orders and results ( ETOR ).
The form also links to information about the available TA offerings so that requestors can readily identify their specific needs . Upon selecting the desired TA menu offering , the form expands to collect information to evaluate and triage the request . The more information requestors provide , the more the team will be able to hone its approach to meet the needs of the community . Finally , additional support requests will be added to the form so that this resource can truly be the one-stop shop for pursuing informatics TA .