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5 Takeaways From Federal Health Technology Leaders

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways

Public health leaders working on the systems and strategies shaping the future of federal health technology broke down some of the efforts around data sharing, electronic health records, interoperability and cybersecurity at the Sept. 21 Health IT Summit in Bethesda, Maryland.

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways
Takeaway #1

A new public health strategy led by CDC is underway

Health IT Summit 23 Opening Fireside Chat: The New Public Health Data Strategy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the Office of Public Health Data, Surveillance, and Technology with the idea that coordinating a public health data strategy was long overdue. Director of the office, Dr. Jennifer Layden, said the new office is a huge step forward in modernizing a “very antiquated public health system.”

“With the move to establish a new office at CDC, it was part of the moving forward effort about a year ago where there was clear recognition that, as a federal agency, we needed to have an office that was dedicated to leading and driving a coordinated strategic public health data strategy,” Layden said.

Health IT Summit 23 Opening Fireside Chat: The New Public Health Data Strategy
Takeaway #2

Data interoperability work leads to better health care

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways

With so many organizations, providers and facilities involved in any single patient’s care, the ability to share data is paramount. Having data in a unified electronic health record (EHR) or otherwise that can be sharable, computable and actionable makes care easier for everyone.

“Gradual change is something that we as humans are much more adaptive to,” said Red Hat Chief Architect Ben Cushing as VA undergoes migration from its legacy EHR to the new record.

“We’re trying to stay as current as we possibly can, understanding the scope of the enterprise we must operate in and, more importantly, the beneficiaries we serve,” said Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) Deputy Director John Windom. “The pursuit of interoperability, just like changes in technology and changes in health care, is going to continue to evolve and improve.”

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways
Takeaway #3

Health IT depends on emerging technology

"Technology is anabsolute critical factor in enabling and advancing the science. — Mark Tartakovsky, CIO, NIAID

Artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are here to help.

“There’s a lot in information science, compute power and then also in the digital health realm and in computer power,” said NIH NCATS Senior Clinical Advisor Dr. Josh Fessel. “It is an exciting time, and there is the idea of experimentation and new ways of learning and knowing things.

Tartakovsky compared computers crunching data to traditional research tools like microscopes or spectrometers. It is “absolutely critical to understand that modern science relies on computation,” he said at the summit.

"Technology is anabsolute critical factor in enabling and advancing the science. — Mark Tartakovsky, CIO, NIAID
Takeaway #4

Artificial intelligence in health care is here to stay

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways

Officials noted that artificial intelligence is already a part of many systems used by public health professionals and that it is aiding patient care, administration and clinical research.

Department of Health and Human Services AI Program Lead Sanja Basaric said that AI can help health IT and health care in “everything from natural language processing and helping reduce clinician burnout to computer vision for image recognition, reducing clinical errors.”

Dr. Layden earlier in the program noted that AI presents many potential benefits in data use, data management and even in on-the-ground work.

“I do think there’s a very rich and important opportunity with the advancement in AI and not just from a data analytic standpoint, but honestly in the day-to-day work of what happens at public health,” she said.

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaways
Takeaway #5

Cooperation and partnerships drive better outcomes

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaway

Nearly every aspect of federal health IT involves multiple federal agencies, levels of government and industry organizations. Everyone has a stake in the successful adoption of technology, research and other work involved in the health IT world.

“We’ll bring in a co-leadership model bringing in folks from private health IT expertise to have public health experts and technology data science experts help to leave the critical work that we need to undertake in public health,” Dr. Layden said.

CDC Chief Data Officer Alan Sim emphasized the coalescing of interoperability and cooperation across levels of government. Without cooperation, positive health outcomes can be less likely, he said.

“We have a number of partners that we work with obviously in health care and public health, our state, tribal and local territorial partners and just a variety of data providers, even outside of the EHR realm,” Sim said. “So, it gets very complicated, quickly, but ultimately we want to ensure that that data is as actionable as it allows us to be.”

Health IT Summit 23 Top Takeaway

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