With the rise in communicable disease, possible threats of bioterrorism, and other chronic illnesses, informatics and public health policies go hand in hand. Data collection and analyzation through interoperability systems can provide so much information that can help the entire population nationally. “Public health informatics (PIH) is considered to be one of the most useful systems in addressing disease surveillance, epidemics, natural disasters, and bioterrorism” (Aziz, 2017, p. 79). The government is essentially in control of public health decisions and determines which polices and guidelines will be enacted to abide by national standards. Public health information systems will depend on available resources and budget.
Currently, data collection comes from multiple different sources including, surveys, facilities, surveillance systems, and data collection systems such as health information exchange (HIE) and health information organization (HIO) (Aziz, 2017). Hospitals and clinics are often mandated to report specific patient information, which can aid in disease prevention and management. Although all this data collection aids in PHI, “nonclinical data sources can help assist in identifying public health trends as well” (Hebda, Hunter, & Czar, 2019, p. 426).
Surveillance systems collect patient data, which is then interpreted and analyzed to look for specific patterns and trends in diseases and injuries. This research can then provide insight on ways to possibly prevent or mitigate damage from the illness. Syndromic surveillance system is a specific system that “collects symptoms and clinical features of an undiagnosed disease or health event in near real time that might indicate the early stages of an outbreak or bioterrorism attack” (Aziz, 2017, p. 78). This information could then be conveyed to all national health officials. HIE and HIO can also provide pertinent information to the appropriate source, in the event of a natural disaster, where paper documents may get destroyed. This would be beneficial to PHI as well.
According to Aziz, the newest development in PHI is “geographic information system (GIS), which uses digitized maps from satellites or aerial photography to provide large volumes of data” (p. 78). This also helps provide nonclinical data such as location and spatial patterns. Another benefit for PHI and data collection is the advance of telemedicine/telehealth services. These services will hopefully be able to provide direct patient data, via smart devices. So many benefits exist with PHI that could provide information pertaining to vaccines, cancer, communicable disease, and the emergence of new diseases. This data would allow healthcare officials to determine if there is a possible correlation between patient location, diet regimen, or any other possible link between the patient and the illness.
PHI plays a pivotal role in the health and well being of all individuals. Funding and adequate resources need to be applied to the PHI specialty in order for it to prosper and gain support in the profession. Data collection, along with education, are imperative to the management and prevention of disease and possible threats.
Aziz, H.A. (2017). A review of the role of public health informatics in healthcare. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, 12(1), 78-81. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com
Hebda, T., Hunter, K., & Czar, P. (2019). Handbook of informatics for nurses and healthcare professionals (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.