BACKGROUND: Maintenance of IT infrastructure for public health information systems, including surveillance systems and registries, at the state and local governmental level is becoming increasingly costly and complex. Additionally, the current state of public health information systems remains highly fragmented and insufficient to tackle the complexity of electronic data exchange with clinical care providers. With a goal of providing an infrastructure for common data exchange and development of innovative and interoperable systems, ASTHO is engaged in a feasibility assessment for the development of the Public Health Community Platform (PHCP). The PCHP is anticipated to provide cloud-based infrastructure and services for the public health enterprise to support application hosting and electronic data exchange. The success of the PHCP is dependent upon transparent planning and communications activities which fully engage the public health community and other key stakeholders including federal agencies and the healthcare sector. Equally critical to the success of the PHCP is appropriate technology selection, governance structure and full understanding of legal implications of the shared platform model.
METHODS: Activities currently being planned are (1) the formation of an interim steering committee, (2) key informant interviews, environmental scan assessing the needs of the public health community, and existing initiatives and an assessment of the current technology which might be leveraged to produce an initial framework for the PHCP, (3) an assessment of potential models for governance and sustainability of the PHCP, (4) development of a communications plan for promotion of the PHCP and wide engagement of the public health community in its development, (4) an assessment of legal and policy considerations of cloud-based public health and healthcare data sharing across agencies and jurisdictions, and (5) development of use cases to drive pilot-testing of first generation proof-of-concept candidates for the PHCP.
RESULTS: Outcomes of assessments and current recommendations status will be shared, with particular emphasis on anticipated usefulness for public health surveillance systems. Findings from each of the assessments is expected to identify critical issues that will direct PHCP development and also raise important topics for further planning and assessment. An update on proof-of-concept pilots will be provided..
CONCLUSIONS: The PHCP may provide a cost-effective solution to improve timeliness of exchange between healthcare and public health sectors, enhanced data analysis across multiple data sets resulting in greater efficiencies in assessing complex public health issues, and ultimately, to improved population health. Thoughtful planning and stakeholder engagement will be key to the success of the PHCP initiative.