Online Program

Assessing the status and prospects of state and local health department information technology infrastructure

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 1:30 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.

Adil Moiduddin, MPP, Health Care Research, NORC at the University of Chicago, Bethesda, MD
Michael Millman, PhD, Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
Although public health departments routinely capture and manage data electronically and use the Internet and system-to-system interfaces to transfer information, they struggle to establish integrated approaches to capturing, managing, analyzing and sharing information across programs and jurisdictions. Public health officials face common challenges, including variation and ongoing evolution of public health activities, lack of training on informatics and process re-design, shrinking funding and constraints that limit strategic investment and encourage data “silos”. Most agree that, in the future, public health practice will require an integrated approach to managing information and collaboration with health-care providers and other partners. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Health Information Technical for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and advances in health informatics bring opportunities while revealing important gaps and posing new challenges. HITECH motivates electronic reporting but does not emphasize the IT needs of public health practice. The ACA emphasizes population health goals but does not define a role for public health. Informatics projects break new ground, but have not yet benefited most public health departments. Many stakeholders await more direction before acting on opportunities from ACA and HITECH. Discussions with dozens of public health leaders suggest that public health departments need access to sustained and flexible resources supporting capital investments, workforce training, business process analysis and implementation. By articulating a strategic framework for using IT, some public health departments are pursuing a path that reduces unnecessary redundancy and improves the quality and scope of information available for public health practitioners. For example, by capturing demographic data one time to support multiple services; aligning data from multiple administrative and programmatic sources to help address service needs or using health-care provider generated data, public health departments can increase efficiency and innovation. Developing an effective strategic framework requires knowledgeable leadership to identify relevant data sources, document public health practice, understand legacy systems, work with vendors and visualize how to improve functions through better information flow. A framework helps agencies address known priorities as funds become available rather than simply react to funding opportunities. Stakeholders uniformly believe that the federal government, national organizations and funders of all kinds can facilitate progress towards improved use of public health IT by endorsing and fostering integration, common standards and business processes and increased collaboration between health-care providers and agencies with public health responsibility at all levels.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Other professions or practice related to public health
Program planning
Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate current uses of IT in state and local public health agencies Describe the potential impact of HITECH and ACA on public health systems Analyze the role of public health informatics in shaping public health practice Discuss potential next steps and opportunities to improve use of IT in public health agencies

Keyword(s): Health Reform, Health Information Systems

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the project director on numerous studies related to public health and informatics. I've been a speaker at this meeting in the past on related topics. My work and interests are at the intersection of informatics, safety-net providers and population health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.