Challenges for data-centric future in public health

Participants in a workshop on upcoming challenges and opportunities in healthcare informatics worried that public health agencies (PHAs) aren't keeping up, according to an article at eGEMS (Generating Evidence & Methods to increase patient outcomes.)

At the two-day workshop, convened by the Public Health Informatics Institute and Institute for Alternative Futures, experts from the public and private sectors expressed a sense of urgency about developing a coordinated strategy to connect "siloes" or pockets of information that need to be aggregated to help inform public health.

They noted that public health agencies have not enjoyed the IT funding offered to doctors and hospitals through HITECH under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Participants agreed that PHAs will be critical players in providing vision and leadership to encourage data-sharing at national, state and local levels, and that public health agencies will need to modify some traditional practices of mandated data collection to embrace more collaborative data integration strategies.

Public health practice will require better measures, a stronger evidence base and strategic communications about its demonstrated ability to have an impact on population health. It will require expanded data-sharing, including new partners, and a standards-based and interoperable data infrastructure to make data available to them.

Participants also asserted that current approaches to address the shortages in the informatics workforce are inadequate. Increasing this workforce will require innovative approaches.

The past year brought with it "unprecedented" public health challenges, including Ebola, MERS and antibiotic resistance. Containing spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, posed the biggest challenge, involving the largest such effort in the Centers for Disease Control's history, which involved 170 field staff and 700 others.

Meanwhile, the American Health Information Management Association convened an international council from 12 countries focused on alignment and advancement of workforce training curriculum in health information management and health IT.

To learn more:
- read the article