Distributed Data Networks That Support Public Health Information Needs

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Abstract

Introduction:

Data networks, consisting of pooled electronic health data assets from health care providers serving different patient populations, promote data sharing, population and disease monitoring, and methods to assess interventions. Better understanding of data networks, and their capacity to support public health objectives, will help foster partnerships, expand resources, and grow learning health systems.

Methods:

We conducted semistructured interviews with 16 key informants across the United States, identified as network stakeholders based on their respective experience in advancing health information technology and network functionality. Key informants were asked about their experience with and infrastructure used to develop data networks, including each network's utility to identify and characterize populations, usage, and sustainability.

Results:

Among 11 identified data networks representing hundreds of thousands of patients, key informants described aggregated health care clinical data contributing to population health measures. Key informant interview responses were thematically grouped to illustrate how networks support public health, including (1) infrastructure and information sharing; (2) population health measures; and (3) network sustainability.

Conclusion:

Collaboration between clinical data networks and public health entities presents an opportunity to leverage infrastructure investments to support public health. Data networks can provide resources to enhance population health information and infrastructure.

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