Report: Several Barriers Hinder Sharing of Public Health Care Data

December 4, 2014 in News

The electronic exchange of public health care data could be hampered by several barriers, including privacy and interoperability issues, according to a report published in the journal BMC Public Health, Health IT Security reports (Snell, Health IT Security, 12/1).

Details of Report

For the report, researchers carried out a systematic literature review to assess the potential barriers to sharing public health care information. The researchers then grouped the barriers into categories, with the goal of fostering a dialogue on potential solutions (van Panhuis et al., BMC Public Health, 11/5).


The researchers identified 20 potential barriers to data sharing in public health within six categories:

  • Economic;
  • Ethical;
  • Legal;
  • Motivational;
  • Political; and
  • Technical.

Examples of potential barriers include:

  • Copyright and ownership concerns, such as a lack of understanding about or documentation of public health data ownership resulting in “inconsistent ad-hoc guidelines” and data restrictions being the default option;
  • Data formatting issues, such as public health data being collected and maintained in paper format or outdated and incompatible electronic format;
  • Data preservation and archiving issues;
  • Interoperability issues, such as technical software tools used in the private health sector not being widely available in the public sector;
  • Lack of data retrieval systems; and
  • Privacy concerns, such as an inability to make clear distinctions between data that are fully anonymous and data that contain personal identification information resulting in policies restricting all data types.

The researchers noted that the multiple issues have led to compounding problems.

They suggested that stakeholders address the issues comprehensively and develop a systematic framework to reduce the barriers (Health IT Security, 12/1).

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