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Pilot program looks to streamline sharing of data on contagious illness

Rachel Wheeler Archive
IBM, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Public Health Data Standards Consortium (PHDSC) are collaborating to address data quality and sharing issues when it comes to contagious illnesses. The healthcare industry is currently in the throes of a major overhaul, driven by the push to use information technology (IT) tools for documenting and recording patient encounters.

Outside of improved care quality and greater efficiency for physicians, access to large amounts of patient data can help analysts identify important patterns in healthcare and learn more about the spread of infectious diseases.

This is not necessarily something new, but something that could be applied on a much larger scale given emerging technologies and the surplus of data, according to the Salisbury Post. The paper explains that patient data was used by Dr. John Snow to pinpoint an outbreak of cholera in 1854 that claimed the lives of 500 London residents. After plotting the location of their homes on a map, Snow discovered they were all drawing water from the same well. The same idea could be applied now, using vast amounts of information that's been verified for data quality to address current health concerns.

"This collaboration is an opportunity to reduce disparities, improve control of infectious diseases, with the aim of building standardized electronic health care systems that are accountable for the health of our communities and our country," said Dr. Nikolay Lipskiy, health IT standards and interoperability lead for the CDC.