How 2 physicians think healthcare can fix its data systems

The U.S. will not be prepared for future public health crises unless it fixes its outdated and fragmented health data systems, two physicians argued in a Nov. 7 opinion piece published in The Los Angeles Times

The article was written by Ali Khan, MD, the former director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, and William Kassler, MD, CMO of Palantir Technologies. They laid out three main areas of improvement the U.S. should focus on as it reimagines its health data systems.

  1. The U.S. must establish a new comprehensive national data infrastructure that eliminates data silos. The CDC is beginning to make these changes with its data modernization initiative, but the agency needs to employ a more comprehensive approach that "considers pertinent data from across the federal and state agencies linked to clinical and personal behavior data," according to Drs. Khan and Kassler.

  2. Temporary pandemic public health funding should be replaced with $500 million in annual funding. Funds would be used to improve data standards and sharing, utilize EHR data for surveys and disease monitoring, and secure necessary partnerships. Drs. Khan and Kassler argue this would make data less political and more immune to manipulation and misinformation.

  3. The national data system must ensure data is shared without threatening privacy. The system should allow clinical data access only to qualified researchers whose methods have been approved by an independent ethics board and health data access only to public health officials who track disease outbreaks. For wider use, the system could offer data without individual identifiers. Data systems should also be auditable, with records of all data processing.

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