Why Health Data Is Good Infrastructure

One of the lessons from Covid-19 is the dangerous risk for our nation created by the gaping divide between public health and clinical care. With little information about their patients’ vaccination status, how can primary care providers help patients overcome hesitancy or find a place to get vaccinated? With no ability to track post-vaccination health, how can public health perform their critical monitoring functions? We need to strengthen and build robust health data utilities that can link and connect public health and clinical data systems. It makes sense to build these data utilities as public-private partnerships in states, tied to the powerful purchasing, regulatory, and public health levers states have.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) across the nation have evolved to meet these data needs. These organizations have always been hubs for clinical data and are increasingly sharing social service and claims data with provider, health plan and hospital partners. They have evolved from being data “hunters and gatherers”—finding and moving data between healthcare entities—to data “cultivators,” curating and analyzing information across all community partners to produce reports, insights and actionable data. They are public resources that enable government and other stakeholders to achieve shared goals of strengthening public health, addressing equity and improving care.

This is an important role, especially now, as we continue to grapple with Covid-19 . Closely partnered with states, these emerging health data utilities are bringing together clinical information and vaccination records to produce vaccination action lists for providers. They are helping public health agencies monitor vaccinated populations as “breakthrough” infections mount. They are filling in race and ethnicity information when it is missing from vaccination records so that we can track issues of equity. They are supporting health systems and providers looking to catch up on missed preventive care during Covid-19.

Read the article by Claudia Williams, CEO, Manifest MedEx, published in Public Health Post.