Graduated: January 1, 2011
Notifiable Conditions Information Systems in Local Public Health Practice: Applied Informatics Research
Notifiable conditions reporting is an essential component of public health surveillance. Through this process local public health jurisdictions (LHJ) collect information about health events of interest and share this information with state-level public health departments. Many LHJs make use of electronic information systems to manage, process, and analyze the notifiable conditions data. In the midst of state and national-level efforts to standardize notifiable conditions reporting processes, there has been a nation-wide push for LHJs to adopt new notifiable conditions information systems that are capable of online reporting. Offering the benefit of faster reporting to state public health departments, and compliance with new standardization efforts, these systems may not be designed to accommodate the specific work practices that are unique to each local public health jurisdiction. The implementation of a new information system in an LHJ may disrupt the work that is required to properly address the health issues that are unique to the region. This could have serious effects on local public health practice.
This study aims to improve the development and evaluation of notifiable conditions information systems that support the work of local public health jurisdictions through three main efforts. 1) To describe the use of information systems in local public health practice, communicable disease information management activities were observed at a large municipal public health agency. Participant observation and task analysis were used to describe the work of local public health practitioners. 2) An online survey was developed and distributed to local public health practitioners in Washington State. Employees were asked about their work practices and interactions with information management systems. Descriptive statistics were used to compare the usage of information systems across LHJs of differing size. 3) An evaluation strategy for local public health agencies was developed to assess the usefullness of information systems within their working environment. A guidebook describing the strategy was written and shared with local public health practitioners.
The findings from this study provide new knowledge which can be used to inform the design and evaluation of notifiable conditions, communicable disease, and outbreak management software.
Last Known Position:
Director, Public Health Informatics Program, RTI International; Adjunct Professor, Emory University
Neil F. Abernethy (Chair), George Demiris, Mark W. Oberle, Lisa A. Jackson (GSR)