Building Public Health Data Infrastructure Is Key to Precision Public Health

Leveraging health information exchanges gives public health the functionality needed to modernize and flex to the ever-changing landscape of disease and need around us

We are at an important crossroads for public health in this country. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that our woefully underfunded public health infrastructures are in desperate need for modernization, starting with data exchange infrastructure.

In public health, we’re used to receiving data and protecting it. Perhaps sharing data doesn’t come as naturally. But the lesson learned from the pandemic is clear: We need to leverage advances in interoperability to build the right foundation for meaningful health data exchange in preparation for the next pandemic and to address the stark reality of health inequities in our country. In an era of self-driving cars, it’s almost inconceivable that public health departments throughout the country still rely on manual methods of calling and faxing to exchange health information, especially in situations where every minute counts.

Now, the challenge is sustaining the momentum and moving the urgency for health information exchange forward, to be able to share data and build modern, precision-focused public health collaborations not only within counties, but also across counties and even across states. If we’re going to continue engaging in an integrated approach to care, we need to start by building long-term, sound infrastructure that will support it. Foundational health data infrastructure is the key to practicing precision public health, using insights gleaned from data to develop targeted programs and innovative practices, resulting in better health and reducing health disparities across populations.

Read the article by Mimi Hall, Vice President of Public Health Innovation, Manifest MedEx, published in Healthcare Innovation.