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Federal public health laws supporting data use and sharing
  • Published Date:
    March 19, 2015
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-247.93 KB]

  • Corporate Authors:
    Public Health Law Program (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.)) ; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.). Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support. ;
  • Description:
    The role of health information technology (HIT) in impacting the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery is well-documented. As HIT has progressed, the law has changed to allow HIT to serve traditional public health functions. This issue brief summarizes federal laws supporting the use and sharing of health data within the developing public health HIT landscape.

    Collecting patient data for providing direct healthcare services (commonly called “primary use”) is the cornerstone of healthcare practice. In recent years, sharing of electronic patient data for public health uses has been given increased attention. Health departments and other entities rely on data sharing for research and analysis to support disease prevention and health promotion in the population (commonly called “secondary use” of data).

    Law lays the foundation for the recording, storage, and use of electronic health information (EHI). For example, law plays a significant role in enabling health departments to use HIT to improve systems that individual patient information to track population health trends and interface with similar HIT systems used by healthcare providers and facilities. In addition, law supports the sharing of EHI to facilitate surveillance, emergency and outbreak response, and health communication, among other essential public health functions.

    This issue brief summarizes federal laws that have shaped state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments’ use of HIT, including

    • Laws that promote healthcare providers’ HIT implementation and use;

    • Laws that address how EHI collected for primary uses can be shared with healthcare providers and others for primary and secondary purposes, including public health activities; and

    • Privacy laws that govern the types of EHI that can be disclosed and the permitted uses of EHI.

    This issue brief includes laws enacted through December 2014. Published March 19, 2015.


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