CDC Looks to the Cloud to Enhance Data Collection

By: Kelley Katsanos| - Leave a comment

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is always working to advance how it collects and analyzes public health data to track risk factors and disease outbreaks. Now, the organization is looking toward cloud-based solutions to move this effort into the future. The CDC will have to face a series of challenges as it moves toward a cloud model, but the transformation should be well worth it.

What It Takes to Shift to the Cloud

The CDC plans to rely increasingly more on the cloud to promote data sharing with other organizations and allow access to hard-to-reach information in electronic health records (EHRs), according to Fierce Healthcare.

“To accelerate progress, CDC is moving toward greater use of shared digital data services and an interoperable, integrated, cloud-based data platform,” a study by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) states.

The CDC has already begun setting the foundation for transitioning to the cloud by developing an initial set of shared digital data services. Officials must implement proper deployment of information in both nonhealth and health care information systems to make this transition a success.

“Substantial work remains to develop, deploy, support and govern the use of shared information technology services both within CDC and with external partners,” the ASPPH notes.

Despite these challenges, the CDC is poised to gain immense benefits by leveraging and sharing data in the cloud.

“In addition to promoting data interoperability, shared information technology services have the potential to offer new tools for data analytics, data visualization and information dissemination,” the ASPPH study explained.

The CDC also plans to use its electronic case reporting (eCR) system to leverage data from EHRs and other health information systems. By using its eCR, state and local health departments can conduct real-time surveillance without troubling health care providers. In addition, to fulfill Medicare requirements for EHR implementation, providers will be required to send eCRs to state and local health agencies by mid-2018. According to Fierce Healthcare, the CDC’s efforts surrounding infectious-disease tracking are driven by this change.

Building a Stronger Internal IT Workforce

The CDC is working with experts from outside the government to focus on “entrepreneurial approaches to complex problems” in order to extend their internal IT workforce capabilities, according to the ASPPH. Moreover, the CDC has hired five entrepreneurs to fill CDC resource gaps and work with complex data management, data science and modern software design.

However, this may not be enough to elevate data sharing and collection capabilities for the CDC in the future.

“Although it is an important first step, it does not meet the growing information technology workforce needs at state and local health departments or represent a long-term, strategic approach to developing an information technology workforce at the federal level. CDC must look for more opportunities to leverage private-sector and entrepreneurial talent and complement the public-sector workforce,” reports the ASPPH.

CDC officials also recognize that transitioning to the cloud will require more than implementing efficient systems for data sharing, maintaining privacy and protecting confidential data. To truly solidify this shift, officials must build trust between data sharing partners.

“In addition to technology and workforce, a key component of developing these systems will be trust between data partners in local and state health departments and CDC,” the ASPPH concludes. “An important value in the efforts described here has been building trust, which will be key to sustaining and enhancing progress.”

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About The Author

Kelley Katsanos

News Writer

Kelley Katsanos is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She has previously worked in business roles involving marketing analysis and competitive intelligence. Her freelance work appears at IBM Midsize Insider, Houston Chronicle's chron.com, and AZ Central Small Business. Katsanos earned a Master of Science in Information Management from Arizona State University as well as a bachelor's degree in Business with an emphasis in marketing. Her interests include information security, marketing strategy, and business process improvement.