Approach Could Prove Revolutionary for U.S. Public Health
In what could be a transformative step for public health in the United States, Houston and Utah became the first locations to implement an approach that allows health care providers to automatically send information about reportable diseases to public health agencies using a new and innovative electronic method.
The major milestone comes two years after key decision makers in health care, public health and health information technology (HIT) formed the Digital Bridge initiative to collaborate on ways to address information sharing challenges and better integrate health care with public health systems. The project is managed by The Task Force’s Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) and Deloitte Consulting, LLP
Electronic case reporting (eCR), the initiative’s initial focus, promises to improve timeliness, accuracy and completeness of data, and will significantly improve public health’s ability to monitor for disease outbreaks.
“The current digital information era has ushered in changes in the way data is collected, stored and shared. While health care has begun to acclimate, health departments must also remain relevant in this new e-health ecosystem by improving their ability to effectively exchange data with health care providers,” said PHII Director Vivian Singletary, MBA, JM.
Currently, infectious diseases that are required by law to be reported to local health departments sometimes never get communicated because of time-intensive written and paper-based processes. As a result, disease investigation and public health surveillance are often delayed, which can lead to dangerous outbreaks.
“Using technology, electronic case reporting can efficiently get vital patient data to the people who need it most, ultimately improving patient and population health outcomes,” Singletary said.
Since its inception, Digital Bridge has laid the foundation for timely sharing of health information through a rubric of trust and an understanding of common needs. What makes the initiative unique is it provides a common platform for different stakeholders in the health space to come together and provide solutions to effective data sharing. Partners will also begin discussions on steps to expand to new uses cases beyond reportable conditions.
In 2019, five other locations — California, Kansas, Michigan, New York City and New York State — will join Houston and Utah as demonstration sites.
The success reported by Houston and Utah users has inspired health IT vendors to continue adapting their systems’ capabilities to keep in step with public health — with the ultimate purpose of improving health outcomes at a national level.
Digital Bridge is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the de Beaumont Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).