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Building the Interoperable Public Health Data Superhighway


        To advance public health and enable timely and accurate exchange of data for all public health programs
        at all levels of government for all diseases and conditions, the public health community must modernize
        its data systems and implement existing technologies to better protect the public’s health. It is time to
        reframe the traditional siloed approach to public health surveillance and adopt a progressive, enterprise-
        wide mindset. An enterprise-wide investment to modernize public health surveillance will build an
        interoperable core data exchange infrastructure—the “public health data superhighway.”

        Effective public health surveillance requires the five core data pillars—or “lanes” of the superhighway—
        to seamlessly share data across the public health enterprise. However, the diversity of systems that are
        available to exchange data makes this challenging. Within a state, the health department’s data system
        may not integrate or interoperate with the health care provider’s system or the laboratory’s system.
        Furthermore, a state health department’s data system may not be able to seamlessly share data with
        federal partners. As a result, the public health enterprise has been slowed by error-prone, manual, paper-
        based data exchange.

        Compounding the slow exchange of data, traditional disease and condition-specific approaches to public
        health surveillance has resulted in more than 100 separate, disease and condition-specific, stand-alone
        surveillance systems at CDC. Data input is not standardized across the agency, creating a burden on
        the public health professionals to keep track of duplicative, non-harmonized, non-standardized data
        requirements for each program. 5





                  “…From the frontlines of the E. coli lettuce outbreak…

                      public health professionals took pictures of their

                 computer screens to share via text messages images of

                lab reports from implicated food samples identifying the

                  linkage to human illness. Why? Because key electronic

                 data systems storing epidemiologic and laboratory data

                   had no way to seamlessly share the information and

                                           speed the response.”              6




                                            Janet Hamilton, MPH

                        Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists





        5  Office of Public Health Scientific Services. CDC Public Health Surveillance Strategy Report: 2014-2018. cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/surveillance/pdfs/Surveillance-Series-Bookleth.pdf. Published
          September 2018.
        6  Hamilton, J. FY20 LHHS Testimony Hamilton. Oral. CSTE. https://cste.sharefile.com/share/view/sc5e20318a5a49a1a. Published April 24, 2019.



        The Public Health Enterprise                                                                           14
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