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Why Data is Key in Modernizing Public Health From Expert Ian McClendon

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Morgan Watson
August 23, 2022

In the past few years, COVID-19 has had many negative effects on the world, but it has also brought to light how inadequate our current public health infrastructure is.

The country quickly realized that the public health infrastructure does not have the tools and resources to meet today's needs. In order to respond to potential threats, like a pandemic, modernization is imperative.

Data is key in the modernization of the public health infrastructure. It can help us understand a variety of things, including the spread of diseases, where to target resources for treatment and prevention, and how to improve overall health.

A discussion between Healthjump's Director of Product, Jose Horta, and expert Ian McClendon from Intuitus Solutions focuses on the importance of high-quality data within the public health infrastructure, and the challenges associated with modernizing it.

COVID Put Pressure on States to Collect Data More Efficiently

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Congress and the president were looking for real-time data reporting, which simply wasn’t happening.

As a result, the states collected COVID-19 data primarily through private partnerships. To collect that data more efficiently, they had to rebuild their entire infrastructure, resulting in a major delay.

Even with those advancements, the rest of the public health infrastructure is still extremely inadequate.

Using Funding to Migrate Public Health Data to the Cloud

Recently, there has been an increase in funding for the public health infrastructure. Healthcare consultants, like Ian McClendon, and other private entities are taking this opportunity to modernize public health and migrate data to the cloud.

To do so, they are working with the state and local governments, but they are facing a bit of a challenge.

Getting states to agree to share their data has been a work in progress given that each state has different laws and regulations, and the constitution limits the federal government in its ability to dictate how they should do things.

Ian and his colleagues are focused on helping states understand how important sharing their data is. It is time to modernize and make private domain technologies, machine learning, and artificial intelligence available to the public.

Why States Hesitate to Share Their Data

The news has reported on many data breaches involving private companies in the past.

Equifax, a multinational consumer credit reporting agency, had a data breach that exposed well over one hundred million people's personal information in 2017. It is devastating to hear that news, but it is even worse to hear that the government has had a data breach.

States are very hesitant to provide their data to the federal government for fear of data leaks.

The states currently have their data isolated in secure on-premise solutions. They are unaware of the advancements in security that cloud technology provides. So when people like Ian want to consolidate their data and move it to the cloud, they are incredibly hesitant.

How the Federal Government Gets States to Cooperate

While the federal government cannot force states to do anything, they can provide funding.

Government entities typically increase revenue by taxing citizens and issuing bonds. However, local politicians are very hesitant to do that for fear of losing their next election, so instead, they accept the funding from the federal government.

The federal government does not provide funding for free. It is usually contingent on the local or state governments taking specific actions. They use cooperative agreements to accomplish the goal of improving the lives of citizens at both levels of government.

Government Employees Want to Improve Public Health

According to Ian, one of the largest misconceptions about the public health infrastructure is that the people who operate government technology at all levels; federal, state, and local are incompetent. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ian explains that in all reality, some of the most driven and dedicated people are in the federal, state, and local governments, and they have a passion for public health.

He says:

“If they were doing it for a paycheck, they'd be somewhere else, right? They're doing it for the mission. They want to serve the public.”

Breaking Cultural Barriers to Gather Real-Time Data

Even though the people working in the government are trying to improve public health, a cultural barrier exists. They’ve done things a certain way for over 20 years, and it isn’t easy for them to change to new systems and processes.

Part of the modernization process includes training people and implementing change management to help them understand new technologies, but they also need to understand the advantages.

You can’t give someone a new process without explanation and expect them to do it. If you explain how it will ultimately enable the public health infrastructure to have real-time data versus two years old stale data, that’s more likely to resonate with mission-driven people.

The Importance of the Cloud and Introducing New Technologies

Ian is an advocate for the cloud, especially when it comes to introducing new technologies to the states. The mission of public health is to monitor new and emerging trends, and it’s impossible to achieve that mission with stale data.

When the infrastructure is hosted in each state’s health department, it's isolated and outdated. The cloud is constantly being updated by Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc., making it much easier to introduce new technologies to the states and train them.

So, the end goal is ultimately for state governments to be on par with private industries technology-wise.

To learn more about the future of healthcare interoperability, check out our blog “Interoperability To Data Liquidity: The Blockbuster to Netflix Analogy.”

Healthjump Delivers Data to Improve Healthcare

With a modernized public health infrastructure, leaders will have access to essential, real-time data needed to make informed decisions about how best to allocate resources, increase accountability at all levels of government, and improve the overall quality of life.

Organizations seeking to improve healthcare can use Healthjump to collect, store, and move health data. We are committed to protecting sensitive information and meeting key regulations.

In recognition of our commitment to information security, Healthjump has earned the HITRUST Risk-based, 2-year Certification for its Data Management Platform hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), joining an elite group of organizations that have achieved this certification.

Contact our experts today to learn more about what Healthjump can do for you!

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