Looking at better data and collaboration to improve public health

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Looking at better data and collaboration to improve public health

JT Lane says there needs to be better data sharing, and more cooperation, between public health systems and the healthcare industry.

JT Lane of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Lane is the senior vice president of population health and innovation for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. He talks about the need for better data, public health challenges, and working with health providers in a conversation on the latest Data Book podcast from Chief Healthcare Executive®.

“I think we’ve known that the public health data ecosystem across the US has been under-resourced, managed and planned, for a while,” Lane said. “We recognized this even before the pandemic.”

Lane talked about important lessons emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, and some key issues to discuss regarding information sharing.

“Whether you’re dealing with lab reporting, lab results, reporting or case reporting, or birth and death data, these data streams move across different systems and silos,” Lane said.

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He said there is progress. And the association is working to improve the sharing of such data between state agencies.

“It’s a complex challenge, and it’s an exciting challenge to take on,” Lane said. “This is the first time we’ve modernized and transformed our public health data ecosystem between federal, state and local governments in US states and territories. One thing we know is what we need to do is break down data silos.

Lane pointed to the need for better collaboration between public health agencies and the health care industry.

“Public health, I think, and health care need to come together more closely,” Lane said. “I think that one is in the public sector, the other is in the private sector, brings a natural cultural distance and between the two, in ways that do not recognize the true business reality that we depend on each other one.”

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“We want to use that data to make effective policy to make sure we keep more people out of the ER and into the appropriate care setting, so everyone wins from this,” he added. “And then frankly, when people are healthier, the economy is usually better. They show up to work more often, fewer kids come home sick from school, things like that.

At least a third of the data that public health agencies analyze to make decisions during a crisis comes from health care providers, he said.

“Public health is concerned about the population and the health of every member of the community,” Lane said. “And we rely on a lot of data from healthcare to monitor that effectively.”

Lane said public health agencies have improved since the pandemic, but there is still much work to be done to prepare for the next pandemic or public health threat.

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He said he would like to see state health agencies working in a collective direction that allows for more unity, while preserving the role of states in deploying their own health actions in public.

“It’s a complex challenge,” Lane said. “I think it’s one we’re aiming for. It will require all of us to do things differently in the future. “

Lane is also concerned about having enough public health workers.

“We’re concerned about public health workers and not having enough people in the field and boots on the ground,” Lane said. “We know the workforce is down. And we’re focused on expanding that.”

“Today, all of our jurisdictions, we share the same concern about the continuity of the health care workforce itself as well as across the country, everywhere from having enough nurses in urban and rural settings, until there are enough doctors in many rural communities across the country,” he added.