Electronic health records have become a relatively mainstream tool in the medical field, thanks to the EHR incentive program and Meaningful Use. The biggest effect of EHR usage has been the significant increase in the availability of patient data. As we work on achieving interoperability within EHRs and enabling an efficient exchange of health information, it’s important that we keep in mind how we can effectively utilize that information.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released an article yesterday on applying EHR data as a means to advance public health.

Public health is a sector of health care that focuses on educating society about health safety and preventive measures. If medical data could be used to develop these efforts, overall outcomes would significantly improve. According to the article, however, there are numerous hurdles to cross before this can even begin to happen:

  1. The current health care system is geared more towards clinical outcomes. Public health, on the other hand, emphasizes precaution and social education. They are looking to understand the various factors leading to the diseases and illnesses a community might face. The two must collaborate in order to effectively construct an accommodating environment.
  2. Population health is not yet a priority for the industry. EHR data is primarily shared among medical practices and hospitals, but connecting it to public health solutions is still something that is given minor significance at this time.
  3. It is essential to aggregate data from all relevant sources. Urban areas are generally host to multiple medical facilities, often in competition with one another. If they are unable to work with each other and coordinate to provide health information for the public health efforts, the system will not work.
  4. The biggest issue with using EHR data is violation of privacy. Patient information is confidential unless given express permission to let others use it. In public health, the current model doesn’t require consent when reporting comprehensive information for a community. When it comes to using individual data for public health purposes, however, it may be necessary to employ a new model that allows officials to use the information while also pacifying patient concerns.

Being able to use patient data so extensively and at such a large scale would transform the entire structure of public health and build a stronger society overall. It is worth making the effort to integrate the separate systems we currently have and taking the right steps to ensure we move forward.

Author: Apoorva Anupindi

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