MeHI Introduces New Public Health Surveillance Tool

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative announced today that the MDPHnet (Massachusetts Department of Public Health Network) system has launched. MDPHnet is a system that allows users at the Department of Public Health to query aggregated patient-level data at the health centers and medical practices to identify illnesses and chronic conditions within communities across the state without accessing any personal health information.  The query architecture is unique because it allows the patient data to remain protected while sending a response to a population question back to the Department of Public Health. Read More

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute, the Department of Population Medicine of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School, The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Atrius Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health partnered on this pilot project, funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), to develop and test MDPHnet and put the network into production. 

The pilot is currently focused on using custom algorithms to identify influenza-like illnesses and diabetes among patients in the Commonwealth. Future use may allow for the Department of Public Health to use the system to identify additional medical conditions.

“For the first time ever, we will be able to collect de-identified data from electronic health records, which will significantly improve our ability to meet the public health needs of the state,” said Kristin Golden, Director of Policy and Planning for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  “With health information exchange becoming a reality, we cannot rely solely on time-consuming telephone surveys to predict prevalence of disease in our state; we must have a state of the art system and MDPHnet is the first step toward realizing the full potential of electronic health records.”

The Massachusetts eHealth Institute, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is responsible for managing the pilot and coordinating the efforts of all the stakeholders so that MDPHnet is a success.

“Implementation of MDPHnet provides the Commonwealth with a great tool to connect the dots and provide a better level of care to the residents of Massachusetts,” said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of MassTech. “Coupled with the implementation of electronic health records, MDPHnet puts Massachusetts ahead of the curve in delivering better patient care.”

Dr. Jeffrey Brown, Research Director of the Therapeutics Research and Infectious Disease Program at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute’s  Department of Population Medicine, co-investigator for the MDPHnet Pilot and one of the architects of PopMedNet, the platform on which MDPHnet runs, has been anticipating this day for the past year: “Our project team has worked together to provide DPH with a system that will assist them in identifying chronic conditions in patient populations and promote public health across the state”. 

Dr. Michael Klompas, Infectious Disease Physician and Principal Investigator for the MDPHnet Pilot also at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute’s  Department of Population Medicine, is pleased that this work will contribute to public health surveillance across the state. “MDPHnet will substantially improve the health department's capacity to track health trends in Massachusetts and identify high priority populations for targeted interventions", Klompas said.

The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute's Department of Population Medicine, a unique collaboration between Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Harvard Medical School, aims to improve the health of individuals through research and teaching focused on patient populations and the health systems affecting their care.

Atrius Health and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers are allowing queries via MDPHnet.  Ellen Hafer, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers is pleased to be able to provide this valuable data to the Department of Public Health, while ensuring that every patient’s data is protected.  “The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers is excited to play a vital role in the MDPHnet Pilot providing statewide data from our DRVS EMR reporting solution capturing data from 103 service locations ”, said Hafer.

Atrius Health will also be a query partner for MDPHnet.  Dr. Michael Lee, Director of Clinical Informatics at Atrius, is happy to be a part of this collaboration.  “Atrius is looking forward to being a query partner for the MDPHnet Pilot because we recognize this system will provide us with a useful tool that will improve the health of patient populations in the communities we serve,” he said.

 “The MDPHnet project is leading the way in developing, curating, and adopting ONC recommended standards for distributed population queries to promote secure interoperability both within and across networks” said Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “We believe that the adoption of these standards will continue to increase the effectiveness of distributed query networks in creating a secure and private Learning Health System and, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.”

MeHI is the state's entity for health care innovation, technology, and competitiveness and is responsible for advancing the dissemination of health information technology throughout Massachusetts, including the deployment of electronic health records systems in all health care provider settings that are networked through a statewide health information exchange. For more information, please visit