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In 1907, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law requiring the reporting of individual cases of 16 different communicable diseases. However, in 1918, influenza was not a reportable disease which meant authorities didn’t see the Spanish Flu, which took up to 100 million lives, coming. By 1925, with epidemiology receiving recognition as a formal science, all U.S. states were participating in a national disease reporting system. 

Since then, case reporting of communicable and non-communicable diseases has been vital for disease prevention and control. Every state has a list of reportable diseases which specifies the conditions and timeframe that they need to be reported to state and local public health agencies.

However, according to the CDC, traditional manual case reporting can be fragmented, slow, and inefficient. In contrast, electronic case reporting (eCR), which is a collaborative effort of the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the automated generation and transmission of case reports using an electronic health record (EHR). As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the United States, the urgency for eCR has accelerated as a means to automate and expedite this historically slow and burdensome process.

Today, Surescripts Clinical Direct Messaging, which is integrated into clinicians’ existing EHR software, is being used as a critical interoperabilty tool bridging the gap between healthcare providers and public health agencies for electronic case reporting of COVID-19 diagnoses.

As Dr. Steven Lane of Sutter Health shared, “COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our need to need to maximize the use of standards-based interoperability tools…As one of the original eCR pilots, we were able to go live in about three days and hope to advance eCR as a nationwide approach to case reporting.”

While Surescripts has been enabling seamless information sharing in healthcare for nearly 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for true interoperability into sharper focus. These unprecedented times call for new levels of adaptability and innovation—and the Surescripts Network Alliance has delivered. 

Read more about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how we’re providing technology solutions to help frontline healthcare workers during this public health emergency.