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CDC Updates Public Health Data Strategy

Accelerating data sharing through capabilities like electronic case reporting make up a large portion of the new two-year plan.

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CDC Director Mandy Cohen speaks at the Health Action Summit April 2024.
CDC Director Mandy Cohen speaks at the Health Action Summit April 2024. Photo Credit: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Public Health Data Strategy to focus on new goals including expanding electronic case reporting (eCR). The strategy outlines actionable steps as part of CDC’s broader data modernization effort to better detect and respond to public health threats.

“[The data strategy] really articulates the future vision that we’re moving towards — embedding a lot of lessons learned about how we want to strengthen public health data,” said CDC Director Mandy Cohen during Kaiser Permanente’s Health Action Summit Thursday.

The first iteration of the plan launched in 2023 included an initial set of 15 milestones for strengthening public health data systems under four goals: strengthening core data, accelerating access to analytics and automated solutions, visualize and share data, and advance interoperability.

The agency met most of its milestones, including improving real-time data reporting from hospital emergency departments with the National Syndromic Surveillance Program and great progress with automated eCR.

Electronic reporting supports the first goal of strengthening core data as it enables faster data sharing, which helps public health departments and CDC quickly identify disease trends in rural communities.

“We now have almost 33,000 facilities sending data directly in an automatic fashion to public health. And this is not to CDC, this is their frontline to state local partners, to see an expansion of the syndromic surveillance data,” CDC Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology Director Dr. Jennifer Layden told GovCIO Media & Research during HIMSS last month.

Now in the new strategy, the agency aims to further accelerate eCR adoption among certain hospitals and jurisdictions.

During COVID, eCR enabled sharing information about notifiable symptoms between roughly 2oo state and local facilities. Layden said the strategy aims to increase the number of facilities that participate in data sharing, and will help increase the diversity of conditions that facilities can report, like respiratory virus.

“The good news is we went from having basically no one doing that just a few years ago in 2020. [We did] a lot of work during COVID, now we’re seeing a lot of different health facilities report that data, but it’s only about 30%. We got some work to do here and this is a big goal for us in 2024,” Cohen said.

Other new focuses in the updated plan include further interoperability, advancing health equity and bridging gaps in access to tools.

Layden cited the collaboration between CDC and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to implement standards like the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).

Cohen and other CDC researchers have called for more health care facilities to participate in data exchange by adopting capabilities like electronic case reporting and TEFCA.

Collaborations like these, they said in a New England of Journal Medicine article, will be integral to tackling public health issues.

“Investing in strong relationships and taking action together to protect health could better prepare an integrated health system to respond to the next major health emergency and improve the day-to-day health and well-being of the population,” the article said.

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