In September 2021, The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology issued a report titled Challenges to Public Health Reporting Experienced by Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals. The report, based on survey data from the 2019 American Hospital Association (AHA) Information Technology supplement, examined the challenges hospitals faced in reporting public health data the year prior to the pandemic. More specifically, the study sought to identify the number and types of challenges experienced by non-federal acute care hospitals electronically reporting to public health agencies, and how these challenges varied by state and hospital characteristics.

While additional challenges may have emerged or existing ones made worse during the pandemic, the ONC’s report highlighted several barriers to Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) among hospitals and public health agencies and demonstrated the readiness of hospitals to support critical public health activities prior to the pandemic.

The study uncovered a number of major deficiencies regarding the exchange of accurate medical data. Following is a list of some of the key findings. Read the full report here.

  • In 2019, roughly 70% of hospitals experienced one or more challenges related to public health information reporting.
  • In 2018 and 2019, 50% of all hospitals reported a lack of capacity to electronically exchange information with public health agencies.
  • Small, rural, independent, and critical access hospitals were more likely to experience a health care reporting challenge than their counterparts.
  • The types of public health agency reporting challenges experienced by hospitals varied substantially at the state level.
  • Hospitals’ top two public health reporting challenges in 2018 and 2019 were interface-related issues and a lack of capacity to electronically exchange health information with public health agencies.
  • About one in five hospitals reported issues exchanging information due to differing vocabulary standards; a similar share of hospitals reported difficulty extracting relevant information from electronic health records (EHRs).
  • The number of hospitals experiencing public health reporting challenges related to interfaces and differing terminology standards grew significantly between 2018 and 2019.
  • About one in four hospitals reported experiencing both a lack of capacity to electronically exchange information (e.g., technical staffing) and issues related to interfaces (e.g., costs, complexity) when reporting to public health agencies.
  • About one in 10 hospitals reported both interface-face related issues and difficulty extracting relevant information from the EHR.
  • Small, rural, independent, and critical access hospitals were more likely to report interface related issues, difficulty extracting relevant information from the EHR, and confusion about where to send information to meet reporting requirements compared to their counterparts.

The findings from the study are consistent with 2017 and 2018 survey results, reinforcing the need for hospitals to improve the methods they’re using to exchange health information with public health agencies. 

In September 2020, the ONC awarded funding through the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Information via Health Information Exchange Program (STAR HIE Program) to engage HIE to support public health agencies and communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program aims to leverage HIEs for the development of solutions that will enable public health agencies to respond to future emergencies and provide services for vulnerable and at-risk populations.

Understanding the specific challenges hospitals are experiencing with public health reporting is critical to developing solutions to address the problem. And while efforts to create more advanced, interoperable public health systems are currently underway through the CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative (DMI), the barriers standing in the way of rapid progress are daunting. One of the biggest challenges with successfully implementing any sort of disease surveillance system – whether it’s to address a public health crisis like COVID-19 or to manage chronic disease among any type of high-risk patient population – is the lack of clean data. 

The need for quality, actionable data at the point of service continues to be a major issue in healthcare and a pain point for patients, payers, and providers alike. It threatens the progress of interoperability and data sharing, particularly when the data lives in different EMR systems. While some of the biggest names in healthcare IT have attempted to address this problem, the issue persists unchecked, not due to the lack of great technology, but rather because the data going into these systems at the point of ingestion remains fundamentally flawed. It all comes down to the quality of the data, which remains questionable. Since data serves as the foundation for decision making, this presents several problems.

Verinovum’s Enterprise Data Curation platform uniquely solves the data quality problem between disparate systems. The key difference – and the reason it works – is that Verinovum starts curating data at the point of ingestion. The platform cleans and standardizes data in real time as EMR systems receive new information, allowing ongoing analysis of disease trends, treatment paradigms, and emerging symptom assessments. The Verinovum solution can be aligned with COVID-19, as well as other disease specific models including CHF, diabetes, and COPD.

Don’t let your at-risk patients slip through the cracks because your data hasn’t been properly curated. Contact Verinovum today.