177: Public Health’s Golden Moment

Dr. John Halamka,  President of the Mayo Clinic Platform, kicked off the second day of ASTHO’s Public Health TechXpo urging public health leaders to take advantage of what he calls a "golden period” in history; Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner...


Dr. John Halamka,  President of the Mayo Clinic Platform, kicked off the second day of ASTHO’s Public Health TechXpo urging public health leaders to take advantage of what he calls a "golden period” in history; Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health, explains how data systems must work better together if we hope to meet the nation’s goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030; and you can still catch recordings of the discussions and panels by logging in from the TechXpo home page.

ASTHO Website: Public Health TechXpo

ASTHO News Release: Getting Ahead of the Next Pandemic, Leaders Convene to Identify Solutions to Transform U.S. Health Data

ASTHO logo

Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, May 12th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

If public health wants to improve its ability to respond to the next wave of COVID-19 or the next pandemic, it needs to take advantage of what Dr. John Halamka calls a golden period in history.

Halamka is president of the Mayo Clinic Platform. He opened day two of the ASTHO Public Health TechXpo on Wednesday.

JOHN HALAMKA:

We need a scalable, standards-based federation of systems that are not requiring a huge amount of manual intervention to make them work. And this is the only way we're going to deal with whatever comes next—whether that is COVID or even a question about a therapy, its side effects, and its effectiveness.

JOHNSON:

Halamka says the pandemic created problems that forced him and his colleagues to improvise, as illustrated when experts at Mayo were asked to assess whether hydroxychloroquine was an effective or harmful COVID-19 treatment.

HALAMKA:

We use some extraordinarily advanced standards to do this called Excel and Outlook. The only way we can answer the question in a public health emergency of whether or not a medication helped or hurt was to have manual input of data into spreadsheets that were emailed in a secure fashion of de-identified aggregated data to a central authority to analyze.

JOHNSON:

Halamka told the online audience of hundreds gathered from across the states and territories that the policy, technology, and culture are aligned, and that now is not the time to pull back even though people are tired after fighting the virus the last two years.

HALAMKA:

There's going to need to be, I think, a momentum—despite, as Michael said, the fatigue we all feel—from the lessons learned of COVID, from the notion that spreadsheets are no longer acceptable, email is no longer acceptable, dealing with policies that restrict access to data.

We must use this experience of our last era of COVID to help us instrument the technology that we need for the future. We can't slow down, despite our fatigue. We need to be inspired by what is possible ahead.

JOHNSON:

Halamka quoted estimates that a solution could cost $37 billion over the next decade, but said current funding of more than $1 billion is enough to get the process moving.

HALAMKA:

It's the perfect storm for innovation: we have the technology, we have evolving policy, and we have cultural expectation, and those three are going to enable us—with the funding I've described, the education that I've described, the partnerships, the coalitions I've described—to get to the instrumentation of the United States that we're going to need to address whatever's next.

 

JOHNSON:

Data systems must work better together if we hope to meet the nation's goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030. That's according to Tennessee health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, who spoke as part of a TechXpo panel on Tuesday presented by Guidehouse.

Piercey said electronic case reporting is part of the response, and it's getting better.

LISA PIERCEY:

If we have to find anything good that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was that there has been a little bit better data flow from electronic case reporting through electronic health records.

However, a lot of that is still manual reporting. And I don't know about you, but in our shop, a lot of that still comes in manually by fax, by emailed spreadsheets. And that takes a lot of labor, a lot of manpower, and—as you can imagine—it can be prone to error.

JOHNSON:

While there is no quick fix, Piercey says continued investment in the workforce and infrastructure can help provide the improvements public health needs to reach the national HIV goal.

 

Our coverage of the second ASTHO Public Health TechXpo continues tomorrow.

The event ended yesterday, but you can catch recordings of the discussions and panels by logging in from the TechXpo home page using the link in the show notes. If you didn't have time to register, you can do that even now. Signing up gives you access to all of the information from the last two days.

 

That'll do it for today's newscast. We are back tomorrow morning with more reporting of everything covered during this year's TechXpo.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Lisa Piercey MD MBA FAAP

Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Public Health

John Halamka MD

President, Mayo Clinic Platform