Public health departments unprepared to receive, handle EHR reports

It's hard enough for providers to implement electronic health records. It's even worse for public health departments, whose lack of infrastructure to handle the torrent of reports expected from providers will create a "crisis."

That's the scoop from a recent study from researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"It's one of the paradoxes of the Obama administration," Leslie Lenert, one of the authors of the study, tells FierceEMR. "[The administration] is so keen on health IT on the clinical side and not on the public health side. It has created a mismatch."

The researchers surveyed state and local public health departments, which reported that they don't have the funds and capabilities to respond to and keep up with the Meaningful Use reporting requirements. The public health departments won't be able to process all of the data they receive, let alone speed up investigations or turn the data into actionable plans, Lenert warns.

There isn't even a national market for EHR vendors in the public health arena, he adds. "Software for public health departments is developed by small vendors, and once you're in one, it's very hard to switch," he says.

The authors suggest that public health departments use the crisis as an opportunity to work collaboratively to create a public health cloud community, using "platform as a service" to put multiple public health applications on the platform.

"This is the best approach," Lenert says. "It allows autonomy while also sharing data."

To learn more:
- read the American Journal of Public Health article