The Importance of Public Health Data Modernization

Introduced in 2020, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDCs) Data Modernization Initiative (DMI) aims to improve the quality, accessibility, and management of public health data across the federal and state-level agencies and organizations. This involves modernizing core data and surveillance infrastructure and enabling a more interoperable, resilient, and sustainable public health data system. Data modernization is also a foundational component of the Public Health Infrastructure Grant, which supports critical needs of health departments across the United States. Funding from this grant will help ensure U.S. communities have the people, services, and systems needed to promote and protect health. It creates a foundation for CDC’s public health infrastructure work and provides maximum flexibility so recipients can address their most pressing needs. CDC expects to award more than $4.5 billion over the 5-year grant period to create a stronger, more resilient public health system that is ready to face future health threats.

Fully supported by the CDC and identified as a priority for the 2024 National Public Health Week, the time to consider data modernization is now. The following tools and processes can aid agencies in their data modernization efforts: 

Migrating Public Health Data to the Cloud:
Public health agencies continue to struggle with data silos. Many agencies have separate data systems for different programs and legacy data is often stored in paper records or on-site servers.  This can result in wasted time and resources. Migrating data to the cloud is an ideal solution for removing silos. It’s flexible, secure, cost-effective, and collaborative. With the vast amount of public health data being collected and analyzed, the cloud can easily and affordably scale up to meet demand. It is also easier for team members across divisions to work collaboratively, manage version control, and sync files, while allowing public health agencies to quickly access and analyze large amounts of data to make better, faster decisions. There are numerous cloud solutions to choose from. The CDC has prioritized migrating data to the cloud as part of their data modernization efforts. Their aim is to improve access to public health data and to be better prepared for the next public health emergency. Public health organizations of all levels can benefit from migrating their data to the cloud. For many organizations, data migration is a significant lift, requiring strategy, planning, and execution. North Highland’s system and service migration expertise help clients design and implement modern cloud solutions through critical operational capabilities, readiness domains, and proven approach.  

Use of AI for Rapid Data Analysis:
Among the top trends in data modernization are both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. ML is among one branch of AI and allows a computer to analyze data to do a task, find a pattern, or guess/predict an output based on a set of inputs. There has been an emerging presence of AI and ML in public health, offering the potential to revolutionize the approaches to public health outcomes and data analysis for better decision-making. Examples include improved speed and accuracy in surveillance, accelerating response to outbreaks of diseases, utilizing non-traditional data sources for public health analysis, and improving data quality and integrity.  

To keep up with emerging technologies, like AI and cloud computing, and leverage them to their full capacity, public health organizations need to think strategically about how to successfully add them to their existing digital toolbox. Not only does this mean picking a solution, but also training staff, getting organizational buy-in, and strategizing each step of the implementation of the solution. At North Highland, our experts will work with you to design a roadmap to modernization, mobilize your teams, and reach your desired future state. 

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