The electronic exchange of health information is targeted as needing improvement in a new public health preparedness report from Trust for America's Health funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In a state-by-state analysis looking at 10 indicators of emergency preparedness, seven states' health departments were identified as not being able to send and receive health information electronically to providers and community health centers. The 52-page report, "Ready or Not? Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism," notes that as seen during the H1N1 influenza outbreak, "this type of communication is crucial to ensure public health departments have an accurate picture of the on-ground events and that healthcare practitioners are given the most up-to-date, accurate information.”
In addition, 10 states do not have a health department that has an electronic syndromic surveillance system—which uses data that precede diagnosis—that can report and exchange information. Better public health data collection and management also was the subject of a recent report from the Institute of Medicine.
The report notes that budget cuts at federal, state and local levels are threatening the country's ability to respond to public health emergencies.