Progress in public health informatics
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Progress in public health informatics

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      Public health threats are everywhere and public health events are inevitable. Preparation for such threats and events is paramount as it helps protect the lives of the public and our emergency response workers. Not only did September 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks highlight the importance of public health preparedness, but also the disparity in public health’s ability to respond efficiently and effectively to an emergency. Many of the identified September 11 disparities related to public health’s inability to exchange real-time case information, laboratory results, potential contacts, and environmental contamination, which prompted the Secretary of Health and Human Services to convene the American Health Information Community (AHIC). AHIC’s primary purpose is to accelerate the development and adoption of standards-based healthcare and public health information systems that are capable of sharing information across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries.

      Public health requires interoperable information systems for both routine and emergency functions such as biosurveillance, outbreak management, and electronic laboratory reporting.

      Biosurveillance is the process of active data-gathering with appropriate analysis and interpretation of data that might relate to disease activity and health threats in order to achieve early warning of health threats, early detection of health events, and overall situational awareness of disease activity.

      Outbreak Management refers to a standardized group of systems that enable public health authorities to analyze case reports and data and provide links to surveillance, laboratory and countermeasure and response administration information.

      Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR) is the transmission of data of public health importance from clinical laboratories to public health agencies in electronic format.

      Health Information Exchange (HIE) is defined as the mobilization of healthcare information electronically across organizations within a region or community. HIEs provide the capability to electronically move clinical health information between various health care systems while maintaining the meaning of the information being exchanged.

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