CDC plans to improve public health data collection by moving to the cloud and accessing EHRs

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The CDC wants to access EHR data to improve disease tracking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is focusing on efforts to improve data collection capabilities by accessing information buried in EHRs and utilizing cloud-based applications.

Over the past several years, the CDC has improved the way it collects and analyzes public health data to track disease outbreaks and identify location-based risk factors. But the agency still faces distinct challenges in sharing public health data with other organizations and tapping into EHRs, CDC officials, including former director Thomas Frieden, wrote in Public Health Reports.

Agency officials said the CDC is “moving toward greater use of shared digital data services and an interoperable, integrated cloud-based platform” to further data sharing capabilities and track social determinants of health.  

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“In addition to promoting data interoperability, shared information technology services have the potential to offer new tools for data analytics, data visualization, and information dissemination,” the authors wrote.

The CDC also wants to leverage data from EHRs and other health information systems through its electronic case reporting (eCR) system, which will allow state and local authorities to conduct real-time surveillance using data from patient records. Providers will be required to send reports to the eCR by mid-2018 which are driving the CDC’s efforts around infectious disease tracking.

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Researchers have argued that EHRs could be better utilized to collect and analyze public health data, and data sharing has emerged as a critical feature of community-based population health efforts.

To further these technical advancements, the CDC has hired five private sector experts in software design and data science. However, officials note that ongoing workforce development efforts will be critical to advancing data collection platforms.