Data sharing is the backbone to community-based population health efforts

Community-led efforts to address health disparities in specific populations offer a diverse set of objectives and priorities, but one central theme binds them together: access to data.

Data sharing, integration and use was a key element in 14 of the 17 programs reviewed in a report (PDF) released by AcademyHealth through a partnership with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). For seven of those 14 programs, data capture, exchange and use was a central feature used to understand the specific needs within a community and facilitate care coordination between providers.

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Increasingly, population health initiatives are looking to integrate more community-based data sets that account for geographic and social detriments to health. Some have argued current health IT systems are ill-equipped to manage population health data, leading researchers to call on health leaders to expand access.

The report noted that “data-driven, community-led health transformation is rapidly evolving and expanding” and programs often receive significant funding from federal organizations like CMS or the ONC, as well as private donors like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Health IT advancements among healthcare providers and community agencies have fueled this growth in many instances. For that reason, data sharing and integration remain a chief priority, while virtual platforms offer a way to manage program information and data in a way that is broadly accessible for multiple partnering organizations.