Standardizing Exchange and Use of Public Health Information

IBM Collaboration will Help Control Infectious Outbreaks

Last week IBM Research reported their collaboration in standardizing the exchange and use of public health information to improve healthcare quality and coordination of care. The lack of standards presents problems when information is reported and delays reports that can assist in public health. In the end their efforts will help control infectious outbreaks, better manage communicable illnesses, and track current epidemics and flu strains. Their collaboration is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Data Standards Consortium (PHDSC).

In a press release from IBM they stated, “the coordination and surveillance of public health information across organizations will aid in understanding and potentially preventing the spread of health threats by automating the process and ensuring consistent access to data anywhere in the country. This technology is being piloted with public health information systems in Delaware, New York State, and San Diego County to create, validate and exchange test public health case reports originating from commercial EHR systems or health information exchanges (HIE)”.

The Public Health Data Standards Consortium (PHDSC) is a non-profit organization with members that include Federal, State, and Local Health Agencies, professional associations, academia, public and private sector companies, international members, and individuals. The goal of the consortium is to “empower the healthcare and public health communities with health information technology standards to improve individual and community health”. The organization was founded in 1998.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a Federal Agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The agency is charged with the responsibility to conduct and support health promotion, prevention and preparedness activities that ultimately improve the overall public health throughout the nation. The agency was established in 1946 and is based in Atlanta, GA.

IBM Research is a research and development organization within IBM. The division manages eleven global research laboratories. The first of the labs was the Watson Scientific Computing Lab at Columbia University which opened in 1945. In March of 2012 the Watson Healthcare Advisory Board was formed. The board consists of medical leaders that will “provide IBM with insights on healthcare issues that could be positively impacted by Watson technology adoption”.