ONC Highlights Importance of Data Infrastructure for Public Health

May 1, 2014 in News

In a new issue brief, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT calls for the development of technical and administrative infrastructures that have the capability of processing the increasing volume of data sent to public health agencies through electronic health records, Health Data Management reports.

The brief will be released this week during the Public Health Informatics Conference in Atlanta.

Details of Brief

In the document, Lauren Wu, a policy analyst at ONC’s Office of Policy and Planning and the brief’s author, details the ways that public health agencies use data collected from providers to:

  • Study diseases in communities and throughout the nation; and
  • Respond more efficiently and quickly.

She wrote that the “utility of EHR data for supplemental purposes such as public health reporting, research, patient-safety event reporting and coverage determination has been limited due to lack of uniformity in the terminology and definitions of data elements across EHRs.” Particularly, physicians often report information in unstructured text, according to the brief.

Wu suggests that linking EHR data together in a uniform, structured way could help improve:

  • Care quality;
  • Health research;
  • Patient safety; and
  • Population health.

However, the brief notes that the increasing use of EHRs already has spurred an increase in real-time data collection and that public health departments are working to develop the infrastructure needed to support more regular data feeds (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 4/29).

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