Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2)
Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) is the statewide syndromic surveillance system hosted by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for use by Local Health Departments (LHDs), DSHS Public Health Regions (PHRs, view map of DSHS PHRs), DSHS central office, and data providers (hospitals, free standing emergency centers, and urgent care centers, for example) for enhanced surveillance of emerging public health conditions or threats. Syndromic surveillance utilizes trend analysis to establish a baseline and then uses algorithms to compare the current data to that baseline and issue alerts when aberrations are detected. DSHS has authority to operate TxS2 under Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.
- Submitting Data to TxS2
- Syndromic Surveillance
- History of Syndromic Surveillance in Texas
- Goals and Objectives
- TxS2 Configuration and Connection
- Status and Timeline
- Use Cases and Success Stories
- Policies and Procedures
- Promoting Interoperability
- National Syndromic Surveillance Program
- Outreach Material
Submitting Data to TxS2
Hospitals with emergency departments, free standing emergency rooms, and urgent care clinics, as well as medical professionals who work in those facilities are eligible to submit data to TxS2.
To submit data to TxS2, an organization needs to register intent, sign an MOU, test their data stream between their EHR and the TxS2 system, and follow the quality and frequency guidelines once testing is complete and they are moved into production. For a complete explanation of the onboarding process, please see the Data Provider and TxS2 User Registration and Onboarding Procedure.
If you are interested in submitting data or learning more, please email Syndromic.Surveillance@dshs.texas.gov.
The purpose of syndromic surveillance is to protect the health of the community through public health interventions based on enhanced surveillance of emerging public health conditions and consolidation of health-related data statewide. Syndromic surveillance allows for early detection of abnormal disease patterns that could result in high morbidity and mortality. The basic functions of syndromic surveillance include early event detection, situational awareness, and retrospective analysis.
The basic steps of how syndromic surveillance works are as follows:
- A patient goes to an emergency department.
- The patient’s information is captured in the facility’s electronic health record (EHR).
- Selected elements of the EHR are sent to the syndromic surveillance system.
- The information is analyzed by the system for trends and abnormalities and the system creates alerts for aberrations in the data.
- The information is available for public health authorities to conduct additional analysis.
To learn more about syndromic surveillance and its uses see:
MMWR: Overview of Syndromic Surveillance: What is Syndromic Surveillance?
History of Syndromic Surveillance in Texas
In April 2011, DSHS conducted a survey of existing syndromic surveillance systems in Texas. At that time, there were at least six different analysis systems being used in various parts of the state with no data sharing between them. As of October 2019, there are three syndromic surveillance systems in Texas: the North Texas Syndromic Surveillance System (NTXSS) hosted by Tarrant County Public Health covering PHR 2/3, a system hosted by Houston Health Department covering PHR 6/5S, and the TxS2 system. NTXSS is fully incorporated into TxS2, and the Houston Health Department system is currently working with TxS2 to become fully integrated. The former TALHO system was fully incorporated into TxS2 and no longer exists. TxS2 is working to connect other data providers statewide to integrate syndromic data from across the state into one system.
Goals and Objectives
- Implement, configure, and test the information technology (IT) infrastructure for TxS2.
- Develop and execute Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for data providers to submit data into TxS2 and for LHDs and data providers to access the data in TxS2.
- Conduct user training on TxS2 for data providers, LHDs, DSHS PHRs, and DSHS central office.
- Onboard data providers that have emergency departments and EHRs and achieve ongoing data submission into TxS2.
- Monitor data submission into TxS2 by data providers to ensure stable connectivity and receipt of the TxS2 data set.
- Monitor usage of TxS2 by data providers, LHDs, DSHS PHRs, and DSHS central office to determine if additional training and data feeds are necessary.
TxS2 Configuration and Connection
The TxS2 configuration consists of data providers using secure protocols to submit individual level data to DSHS through the Health Services Gateway. Data is also received from the DSHS EMS and Poison Control registries. Data are stored in a secure database and accessed by users (LHDs, DSHS PHRs, DSHS central office, and data providers) through the analysis software known as ESSENCE (Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics), developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Data providers located in PHR 2/3 that are connected to NTXSS continue to submit data to this system and the data is sent to TxS2. If your facility is located within PHR 2/3 and you would like to connect to this system, please contact Syndromic@tarrantcounty.com In addition, if your facility would like access to view aggregate statewide syndromic surveillance data, please contact TxS2 at email@example.com.
Similarly, data providers located in PHR 6/5S that are connected to the Houston Health Department system submit data to this system and the data is sent to TxS2. If your facility is located within PHR 6/5S and you would like to connect to this system, please contact Biru Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org or (832) 393-4541. In addition, if your facility would like access to view aggregate statewide syndromic surveillance data, please contact TxS2 at email@example.com.
Data providers outside PHR 2/3 and PHR 6/5S are connected directly to the TxS2 system. Please contact DSHS at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain more information about registering an intent to submit syndromic surveillance data. Information about obtaining access to view aggregate statewide data is included in the registration information.
Data providers that submitted data to the former TALHO system should contact Syndromic.Surveillance@dshs.texas to set up a connection to the new system. Please note – those connections were not automatically transferred off the former TALHO system. Facilities in PHR 2/3 should work with Tarrant County Public Health to connect to NTXSS. Facilities in PHR 6/5S should work with Houston Health Department to connect to the Houston Health Department system. Facilities located throughout the rest of Texas will need to work with DSHS to establish new connections to TxS2.
ESSENCE users have access to the data and the ability to view alerts and run data queries. Hospitals and hospital systems can view data within the hospital/hospital system and aggregate PHR and statewide data. LHDs can view data within the PHR and aggregate PHR and statewide data. DSHS (central office and PHR offices) can view data throughout the state and aggregate PHR and statewide data.
Status and Timeline
The Syndromic Surveillance Governance Council (SSGC) was established and met quarterly from October 2014 until April 2020 when it was disbanded.
On May 5, 2016, registration opened for hospitals with emergency departments, free-standing emergency centers, and urgent care centers to register their intent to submit data to TxS2. DSHS is currently only accepting registrations from these Data Providers and will not be connecting other Data Providers to TxS2 in 2020.
On May 15, 2017, the TxS2 system became operational and DSHS is onboarding data providers statewide to submit production data into the TxS2 system. In July 2018, Tarrant County completed onboarding with DSHS. TxS2 now includes data from hospitals that are submitting directly to DSHS and to Tarrant County. As of May 2019, DSHS is working with the Houston Health Department to integrate their data feed into TxS2. By Summer 2019, all data providers with the former TALHO system that contacted DSHS were integrated into the TxS2 system to complete the statewide view.
In August 2019, data from the DSHS EMS Registry and Poison Control registry were added to TxS2 and are available for LHDs and DSHS staff to review. Data providers may view statewide aggregate data from these sources.
DSHS developed a user’s guide to help users access and navigate the system’s main features through the ESSENCE platform. There is also a protocol for monitoring data and responding to alerts. While it is the responsibility of the local jurisdiction (LHD or PHR acting as the LHD) to determine the appropriate response to an alert in their jurisdiction, this guide provides some general tips for analyzing syndromic surveillance data.
- Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) User Guide (pdf, 3124 kb)
- Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) Guidance for Monitoring Data and Responding to Alerts (pdf, 184 kb)
In addition, below are some online training resources for both syndromic surveillance and ESSENCE.
Syndromic Surveillance 101 (4 modules)
- Syndromic Surveillance 101 - Module 1: Syndromic Surveillance Definitions, Uses, Data Types, and Syndrome Grouping
- Syndromic Surveillance 101 - Module 2: Evaluation of Syndromic Surveillance Data Systems, and Data Analysis
- Syndromic Surveillance 101 - Module 3: Response Algorithms, Data Display, and Website
- Syndromic Surveillance 101 - Module 4: Strengths and Limitations of Syndromic Surveillance: Privacy, Confidentiality and HIPAA, and the Clinician's Role
ESSENCE Training (3 parts)
- ESSENCE Training: Building Queries
- ESSENCE Training: Using Queries
- ESSENCE Training: Sharing Queries
- ESSENCE Online Training Course
- NSSP Quick Start Guide to Using ESSENCE
- NSSP ESSENCE In-person Training Workshop
Use Cases and Success Stories
DSHS is reviewing syndromic surveillance use cases for both day-to-day, routine surveillance and for unexpected events such as hurricanes or transmission of Zika virus to provide standard and suggested data queries. Additional information is posted when it is available. If you have questions or recommendations regarding use cases, contact DSHS at email@example.com.
For the system to be valuable, the data within the system must be viewed and analyzed by experienced public health officials throughout the state. As such, DSHS employees, LHD officials, and hospital infection preventionists have been given access to the system. It is important to share the accomplishments of partners throughout the state and to demonstrate to stakeholders the benefits and usefulness of syndromic surveillance. View syndromic surveillance activities and success stories from partners across the state. Please share your syndromic surveillance activities and success stories with DSHS by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Policies and Procedures
Data in the TxS2 system are shared, accessed, used, and stored in a secure, confidential manner in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws governing the protection of health-related information. Policies and procedures for accessing and using TxS2 data are posted here as they are available.
- Data Provider and TxS2 User Registration and Onboarding Procedure (pdf 297 kb)
- Data Provider Onboarding and Messaging Procedure (pdf 308 kb)
- Collaboration with PHR 2/3, Tarrant County Public Health, PHR 6/5S, and Houston Health Department (pdf, 219 kb)
- Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) User Guide (pdf, 3124 kb)
- Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) Guidance for Monitoring Data and Responding to Alerts (pdf, 184 kb)
TxS2 supports federal programs regarding the Promoting Interoperability (formerly Meaningful Use) of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) to improve patient care including the Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).
The objectives of Promoting Interoperability include encouraging health care providers to improve clinical outcomes and population health, increasing the transparency and efficiency of patient encounters, and developing more robust research data on health systems.
Consistent with federal guidelines regarding Stage 3 Promoting Interoperability, on June 30, 2016, DSHS declared readiness to receive data meeting the messaging requirements in the PHIN Messaging Guide for Syndromic Surveillance: Emergency Department, Urgent Care, Inpatient and Ambulatory Care Settings, Release 2.0 (April 2015) and the Erratum, available on the PHIN Messaging Guide webpage, as referenced in the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria, on and after January 1, 2017.
With respect to federal Promoting Interoperability programs, DSHS only accepts registrations from hospitals/hospital systems with emergency departments, and professionals in urgent care centers or free-standing emergency centers at this time.
For entities/individuals not participating in federal Promoting Interoperability programs, DSHS accepts registrations from hospitals/hospital systems with emergency departments, free-standing emergency centers, and urgent care centers.
DSHS will not be connecting other data providers to TxS2 in 2020. DSHS did not operate a statewide syndromic surveillance system in 2013, 2014, or 2015.
More information about the TxS2 and the Promoting Interoperability Program is available.
National Syndromic Surveillance Program
In November 2017, DSHS completed onboarding with the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) to share data collected in the TxS2 system with NSSP. NSSP collaborates with public health agencies and other partners for the timely exchange of syndromic data to improve the nation’s situational awareness and responsiveness to hazardous events and disease outbreaks.
More information on NSSP is available.
TxS2 is a collaborative effort and we depend on our public health partners for success of the project. Therefore, we coordinate with LHDs through the DSHS PHRs and coordinate with data providers through the LHDs and DSHS PHRs.
Tarrant County Public Health and Houston Health Department - Tarrant County Public Health and Houston Health Department host regional syndromic surveillance systems covering PHR 2/3 and PHR 6/5S, respectively, which then feed into the statewide syndromic surveillance system, TxS2. DSHS staff in both the regional offices and at headquarters maintain a collaboration with these partners for syndromic surveillance activities, including collecting and sharing data and information, to ensure the success of the statewide system as a whole.
Public Health (includes LHDs, DSHS PHRs, and DSHS central office) – Public health partners participate in the system by reviewing data for enhanced surveillance, possible earlier detection, and situational awareness of emerging public health conditions or threats. TxS2 data could also help public health partners identify a significant event’s effects on the population post-event, such as large wildfires, chemical facility exposure incidents, or climate extremes (extended heat or cold), and assist in conducting epidemiological investigations. Public health partners respond to alerts generated by the system and conduct epidemiological investigations as needed based on their protocols for response. Additional roles for these individual partners are included below
DSHS Central Office – Management of the TxS2 system is housed within the Division for Regional and Local Health Operations (RLHO), in cooperation with Information Technology support programs. The Community Health Improvement Division and the Laboratory and Infectious Disease Services Division may review data, assist with efforts to standardize data queries, provide support for LHDs and PHRs during investigations of outbreaks or potential outbreaks, and assist RLHO with data and trend analysis, including statewide trends.
DSHS Regional Offices – DSHS PHRs assist in executing MOUs between data providers in their jurisdiction and DSHS. Regional Medical Directors chair the SSRAC for their PHR and regional staff may participate in SSRACs. Regional staff may also attend SSGC meetings as non-voting members. Public Health Regions may review data, assist with efforts to standardize data queries, provide support for LHDs during investigations of outbreaks or potential outbreaks, and assist with data and trend analysis, including statewide trends.
Local Health Departments and Health Districts – LHDs assist, as desired, in executing MOUs between data providers in their jurisdiction and DSHS. LHDs also serve on both the SSGC and the SSRAC. LHDs may review data, assist with efforts to standardize data queries, provide support during investigations of outbreaks or potential outbreaks, and assist with data and trend analysis.
Data providers – Data providers participate in the system by submitting admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) data. Data provider representatives also serve in both the SSGC and SSRACs. Data providers may review data, assist with efforts to standardize data queries, provide support during investigations of outbreaks or potential outbreaks, and assist with data and trend analysis.
Health Associations – RLHO coordinates with health associations [such as Texas Hospital Association (THA) and Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH)] to provide education to and obtain feedback from their memberships regarding TxS2, and promote TxS2 use.
ESSENCE FAQ (.pptx, 651 kb)
Texas Syndromic Surveillance (TxS2) Trifold (.pdf, 27 mb)