It has been almost 4 years since the anthrax events of October 2001 highlighted the weaknesses in our nation's public health infrastructure. Since that time, emerging infectious diseases have appeared--such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and human monkeypox--that have made our readiness for public health emergencies even more critical. Information technology (IT) is central to strengthening the public health infrastructure through the implementation of systems to aid in the detection, preparation for, and response to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies. Congress asked us to review the current status of major federal IT initiatives aimed at strengthening the ability of government at all levels to respond to public health emergencies. Specifically, our objectives were to assess the progress of major federal IT initiatives designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the public health infrastructure and describe the key IT challenges facing federal agencies responsible for improving the public health infrastructure.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||1. In order to improve the development and implementation of major public health IT initiatives, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the federal initiatives are (1) aligned with the national health IT strategy, the federal health achitechture, and ongoing public health IT initiatives and (2) coordinated with state and local public health initiatives.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||2. In order to improve the development and implementation of major public health IT initiatives, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure federal actions to encourage the development, adoption, and implementation of health care data and communication standards across the health care industry to address interoperability challenges associated with the exchange of public health information.|
|Department of Homeland Security||3. The Secretary of Homeland Security should align existing and planned DHS IT initiatives with other ongoing public health IT initiatives at the Department of Health and Human Services, including adoption of data and communications standards.|