In August 2022 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) launched the 2022 Public Health Data Systems Task Force as a subcommittee of the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC). The task force will meet through the beginning of November to present recommendations continuing and building upon the work of the 2021 task force. Members of the task force include individuals from various levels of government, relevant public health associations, and industry partners.
Specifically, the task force is focused on the certification criteria for EHR products certified under the ONC Health IT Certification Program that cover transmission of data from EHRs to public health in these domains: immunization registries, syndromic surveillance, reportable laboratory tests, cancer registries, electronic case reporting (eCR), antimicrobial use and resistance reporting, and healthcare surveys (§170.315(f)(1) through (7). The task force is expected to:
- Examine gaps in both functionality and standards
- Identify systems functions on the public health side that could benefit from increased standardization and possible certification
- Recommend data flows that should be prioritized for standardization
The task force chairpersons indicated that the group would take a “public health first” perspective in its work, focusing on the needs of public health agencies at all levels of government first and foremost. A key metaphor used repeatedly was the need to set an appropriate “floor” for interoperability with clinical care while allowing for plenty of room for growth up to the “ceiling.”
To date there have been four meetings (I didn’t even know about the task force’s existence until three meetings had already taken place). The process for each meeting seems to be about a half hour of “expert testimony” from several presenters on a particular data submission topic followed by about a half hour of discussion. The remaining half hour is used to review a working document of recommendations that committee members edit in between meetings but which is not posted for public review.
The current focus is on the capability of EHRs to submit data to public health. Increasingly, public health agencies are beginning to focus on their capability to receive and process this data, as well as perform new kinds of activities like responding to queries from clinical care; sending queries to clinical care for supplemental data; and increased reporting of data to CDC. Unlike EHRs, public health information systems currently have no certification process, though the American Immunization Registry Association (AIRA) has a robust but voluntary Measurement and Improvement Initiative that comes pretty close for Immunization Information Systems (IIS). The CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative (DMI) will continue to help agencies focus on these improvements and embrace new technologies like HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).
So far the task force has discussed three domains: immunization, electronic case reporting (eCR), and electronic lab reporting (ELR). Nothing dramatically new has been reported or discussed. In future posts I will discuss the task forces deliberations and recommendations more specifically so stay tuned!
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