Texas Health Services Authority Receives STAR HIE Program Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Funding will Benefit Pilot Program to Demonstrate Real-Time Data-Sharing Across Hospitals

AUSTIN, TX, December 21, 2020 
– The Texas Health Services Authority (THSA), HASA (a health information exchange in Texas covering multiple regions), a local hospital partner and Audacious Inquiry announced plans today to leverage the Situational Awareness Network for Emergency Response (SANER) Project for an award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). THSA is one of five organizations to receive up to $500,000 each from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE Program) cooperative agreement program. This program seeks to support state and local public health agencies in their efforts to respond to public health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Texas has been challenged by an unprecedented number of hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will enable us to better respond to those challenges by improving the sharing of critical data such as bed availability, staffing, or the number of ventilators available,” said George Gooch, Chief Executive Officer at THSA. “Being selected as an award recipient for this program is a testament to the ability of THSA, HASA, and Audacious Inquiry to solve a critical data sharing problem in our country.”

The cooperative agreements were awarded to HIEs across the country that proposed a range of activities. Each recipient organization will improve HIE services so public health agencies can better access, share and use health information during public health emergencies. These efforts will also support communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“During times of emergency, the ability for emergency personnel and other medical providers to have real-time access to health data is critical to responding effectively and keeping people safe and healthy,” said Scott Afzal, President of Audacious Inquiry. “We need to revolutionize our outdated and unreliable data-sharing infrastructure. This funding will help advance that goal by allowing us to pilot a project to share critical healthcare data in real-time.”

The SANER Project is an industry-wide collaboration led by Audacious Inquiry that aims to create more effective data-sharing processes to provide real-time situational awareness of health care system capacity in the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health emergencies. The project is an open-source effort to streamline and accelerate real-time transmission of de-identified data among health care facilities, critical infrastructure, and governmental response authorities during public health emergencies and disasters.

“One of the core tenets of healthcare interoperability is to leverage a single interface for multiple purposes and reduce the burden, duplication and costs of administration,” said Phil Beckett, Chief Executive Officer of HASA. “I am thrilled that this funding will enable us to expand the purpose of our infrastructure both in Texas and throughout our national connections to help providers, patients and public health with automated digital reporting of critical resources. I hope this model will be efficient and scalable so that it can be easily expanded across the country.”

Despite recent advances in technology, the ability to share critical healthcare data in real-time is not universal. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, entities have often relied on manual reporting through fax, phone call, and email, which reduces the effectiveness of responses to the virus.

SANER leverages application programming interface (API) standards for health information sharing based on HL7® Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).  It seeks to simplify public health reporting for hospitals across the state through HIE infrastructure while also supporting Texas’ local health departments and emergency management agencies. This funding will be a critical step toward improving situational awareness for healthcare entities across the state, and ultimately to build a more resilient healthcare system with more robust data-sharing systems.

Learn more about the SANER project here.