Sharing data

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched its updated Public Health Data Strategy for 2024-2025 and a companion 2023 Lookback Report. First launched in 2023, the strategy outlines the data, technology, policy, and administrative actions essential to address challenges in data exchange between healthcare organizations and public health authorities and between state, tribal, local, territorial and federal public health authorities. Seamless sharing of data helps ensure the nation can rapidly detect and respond to new threats.

The strategy advances the priorities of the CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative (DMI) in concrete and measurable increments. Key components of the strategy include: 

Faster Sharing of Data to Make Faster Decisions: A standout achievement during 2023 is the increase in the number of healthcare facilities implementing electronic case reporting. Electronic case reporting, or eCR, helps move data quickly, securely, and seamlessly from healthcare facilities to state, tribal, local, and territorial public health agencies on actionable threats. More than 36,000 healthcare facilities can now send electronic case reports, up from more than 25,000 in early 2023. eCR allows faster receipt of data, which speeds case investigations, outbreak definition, and exposure identification, thus minimizing the burden on healthcare partners.

The strategy for 2023-2024 had 15 milestones. In addition to the increased adoption of eCR, other key achievements include:

• Expanding electronic laboratory reporting. 90 percent of CDC labs now electronically share data with external partners, such as state, territorial, local, and tribal health departments. This helps speed up the dissemination of critical information to health departments and other partners, allowing timely awareness of public health threats and prompt response.

• Routinizing real-time reporting. 78 percent of U.S. hospital emergency departments (EDs) provided data to CDC within 24 hours through the National Syndromic Surveillance Program. The nation’s public health departments use these data to detect and monitor a wide array of health threats ranging from infectious diseases, such as fall and winter respiratory viruses, to non-infectious threats like heat, wildfires, and opioids.

• Improving data access in rural communities. 380 critical access hospitals (CAHs) across the U.S. have implemented eCR, up from approximately 300 in early 2023. This enables faster sharing of data, which helps public health departments and CDC identify disease trends in rural communities more quickly and take faster action to improve the public’s health.

• Establishing the Respiratory Virus Data Channel. This tool on CDC’s website offers data visualizations and up-to-the-minute viral respiratory findings for COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It has received over 4 million visits since it was launched in September 2023. The tool provides regularly updated information about disease activity in communities, allowing people to make more informed decisions about their health.

Future Direction

The updated strategy for 2024-2025 lays out priority work for the next two years to continue to improve capabilities for early threat detection and real-time monitoring across all levels of public health. It places a strong emphasis on connecting public health data systems to healthcare data systems, advancing health equity, and prioritizing investments to bridge gaps in access to advanced tools. Focus areas within the updated strategy include:

• Further accelerating the adoption of eCR to ensure rapid detection of novel and emergent threats and diseases. The updated strategy includes milestones on further increasing adoption of eCR among CAHs.

• Connecting public health to health IT to enable faster sharing of data. The updated strategy includes milestones focused on use of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, or TEFCA, which helps establish a pathway for data sharing with healthcare systems and providers. This helps enable faster sharing of data between healthcare and public health, allowing public health to take quicker action to respond to health threats.

• Expanding core data sources that are critical for detecting threats early and monitoring in real-time. In addition to new milestones for eCR, ED, lab, and vital statistics data, the updated strategy includes milestones focused on strengthening exchange and improving sharing of additional core data sources such as wastewater, hospitalization, and hospital bed capacity. Additionally, milestones include a focus on continued improvement in how we integrate and visualize data for real-time monitoring. These data allow public health and the public to monitor disease activity for various health conditions to better inform protective actions.

• Prioritizing data to address health disparities and promote health equity. The updated strategy milestones include increased reporting on additional social determinants of health-related data. These data help CDC and health departments to more effectively identify and address health disparities.