Support the innovative development and
Leveraging APHL’s Informatics
Expertise in New Directions
The pandemic has driven the need for public health data handling and analysis to new levels, with local, state and national officials scrambling to wrangle huge volumes of health data from a myriad of sources into actionable policy.
For years, the APHL Informatics Messaging Services (AIMS) platform has served a central role in connecting public health partners across the country, facilitating the secure collection, exchange and use of health data among federal agencies, public health jurisdictions, and public and private laboratories, hospitals and other testing sites. As the volume and types of data and partners have grown, APHL has been developing infrastructure to enhance its data exchange and technical capabilities for a larger market sector. At the same time, it is making advances to ensure the platform’s long-term stability.
“The AIMS platform is a critical component of the public health system,” said Patina Zarcone-Gagne, APHL’s director of the new AIMS+ Business Unit. “We have been working on creating a sustainable business model that will maintain stable services and continuing support, independent of federal funding decisions.”
The expansion of testing and data exchange during the COVID-19 pandemic—especially an upsurge of testing at privatized laboratories and other non-traditional testing sites—accelerated the launch of services on the updated AIMS platform and expanded business unit. AIMS+ now offers access to messaging services, support, application hosting and data storage and visualization capabilities to a wider set of data reporters. Electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) provides high-volume data transmission for any laboratories doing COVID-19 testing, and work is underway to expand ELR to other disease reporting as well.
The revenue generated through AIMS+ will support development of new tools to help public health laboratories and organizations get and use better data to guide policy and actions. “We’re taking that money and reinvesting it into new products that are going to continue to serve public health,” said Brian Garrett, the AIMS+ product manager.
One of the major new initiatives is a set of products to support the transportation, storage, analysis and sharing of gene sequencing data. These products will help state laboratories modernize data collection, improve surveillance efforts and facilitate collaboration and data sharing across jurisdictions. AIMS+ is also investigating potential data stream improvement services in cooperation with Ruvos, an APHL Diamond Level sustaining member.
Another effort is creating a centralized ELR space for national reportable and notifiable diseases and conditions. “We’re looking at launching some 90 reportable conditions that will be reportable through centralized ELR,” Garrett said, streamlining processes for public health laboratories and potentially expanding testing and reporting of these conditions from nontraditional sites, such as those that entered the testing market during the pandemic. To smooth the onboarding process with nontraditional data reporters, AIMS+ is launching a tool to convert common CSV filetypes to the HL7 message format preferred for clinical data sharing.
With so much expansion, the AIMS+ initiatives share one overarching goal: to get more high-quality data from more sources to more end users and eliminate as many technological barriers as possible. “We’re always looking at how we can bring in products to allow public health laboratories and their partners get better data, ingest and subscribe to that data long-term, and use it to inform public health actions,” Garrett said.