In September 2017 GAO released a new report, Public Health Information Technology: HHS Has Made Little Progress toward Implementing Enhanced Situational Awareness Network Capabilities. In particular, GAO pointed out lapses in completing Congressionally-mandated requirements for this area including the definition of minimal data elements required and collaboration with state, local, and tribal public health officials on the development of standards and procedures to ensure proper data collection. In addition, the GAO chided HHS for not following its own information technology project management methodology in the planning and execution of this project.
Situational awareness has been a conspicuous topic ever since the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare that followed shortly thereafter. But since the initial flurry of public health preparedness funds in the ensuing several years this topic has not had a high priority at CDC nor the funding necessary to implement it successfully. Perhaps this report will serve as a catalyst for the new administration to provide the funding and leadership to fulfill Congress’ intentions in this area.