Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment Uses HIE to Investigate Communicable Disease Patient Information

Date: May 29th, 2018Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: HIE, Public Health


When working with patients who’ve tested positive for a communicable disease, the team relies on hospital data in the CORHIO health information exchange to check on test results and proof of medication compliance.

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) works to protect citizens of Pueblo, Colorado from communicable diseases, such as rabies, pertussis, flu and tuberculosis. They track public health issues like outbreaks of illness, educate the community and local businesses, monitor food and water safety, run a clinic for women’s services and sexual health, and much more.

Their team of epidemiologists, registered nurses, care managers and investigators have to act quickly to follow up with patients who have been positively tested for a communicable disease. This could involve literally driving to the patient’s home to witness them taking important medications, to communicating with everyone the patient has been in contact with to see if they are presenting with symptoms, to simply getting the patient whatever they need to see the doctor and get treatment.

Stopping the Cycle of Illness

PDPHE tracks numerous infectious diseases across the region through the Colorado Electronic Disease Reporting System (CEDRS), which is a confidential early-warning system that allows staff to follow disease trends and put critical control measures into place to protect the community.

When a resident of Pueblo county tests positive for a communicable disease, the team at PDPHE look in the CORHIO web-based HIE portal PatientCare 360® to get information on what testing was done and what medications and treatments the provider put in the care plan.

“They’re able to look up exactly what was done - if there was a confirmatory test, any specimens gathered, if medications were given,” says Lynn Procell, RN, MSN, Director of Community Health Division, Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. “If we learn that the patient has not followed through with treatment, we can reach out with more education or offer assistance getting them treated.”

This information gathering in CORHIO cuts back on valuable time when trying to stop the cycle of illness – especially when the patient is at their most contagious. “Sometimes if they are in a very contagious period, we will look in CORHIO to see if they’ve been in the emergency room so we can contact that hospital and tell them what’s going on,” says Procell. “We will ask the patient for contact information for everyone they’ve been around and we will reach out to all of those people. We ask if they’ve been around any newborns, handled any food for the public, and so on.”

The hospital data in the CORHIO HIE has been especially helpful in rabies and tuberculosis case investigations. “CORHIO has been a great tool for our TB program because a lot of individuals with the disease are transient in terms of housing, making them difficult to track down – and making it more difficult for us to find out who they’ve possibly infected and whether or not those individuals got testing done,” says Procell.

Pueblo county only sees a few TB cases per year, but once active, the cases can be very complex and involve dozens of people who must be contacted because they’ve been in proximity to the ill patient. Rabies is a bit more prevalent with nearly 30 cases last year. And lead exposure is even more so, with 210 individuals tested positive for lead exposure last year.

“CORHIO is very helpful to us because it allows us to locate test results for patients and track elevated lead levels or verify venous lead tests for individuals who are referred to our program,” states Christina Hopewell, Public Health Epidemiologist, Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. “This allows us to complete the public health interview or take additional necessary steps much faster than having to call each provider or hospital to request that information, then wait for it to be faxed.”

Helping Special Needs Kids

The PDPHE runs a program for children with special needs, where physicians and specialists come from metro hospitals for appointments with the families. “CORHIO has helped us get ready for these appointments,” says Procell. “Sometimes a family will mention a recent issue and we can look up what happened to get an accurate description, so when the neurologist comes in (for example), we’re ready. Sometimes parents aren’t able to get all the specific information we need.”