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As the electronic availability of health information explodes, there are exciting opportunities and incentives for local health departments. A tool kit available at www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cclho (posted under resources) was assembled by the Health Information and Data Committee of the California Conference of Local Health Officers to help local health departments get familiar with the issues to interact knowledgeably with community partners in order to maximize the opportunity. Few health departments have electronic access to patient information that would facilitate follow up and case management of reportable conditions, such as tuberculosis. This tool kit was assembled to help you if you want electronic access to hospital patient data for your staff, and to help you understand meaningful use, health information exchange and how to get involved. There are considerable financial incentives for medical providers and hospitals in the next few years to implement health information exchange, including public health elements.
The section “Regulations and Laws” reviews mandates for reporting to local public health in California, laws regarding health officer powers, an excellent review of sections of HIPAA that are quite permissive regarding access for public health purposes, and the text of SB 541 detailing fines to hospitals for security breaches, which explains the depth of their reticence to expand public health access to data.
The section “Resources” includes sample data use and business associate agreements, a chronology of CCLHO efforts for data access prior to Meaningful Use, a summary of benefits for hospitals and public health granted electronic access to patient data and a document suggesting definitions of “minimum necessary” for access for a variety of scenarios. The TB Case documents illustrate how electronic data exchange would greatly enhance public health investigation and case managements.
PH Informatics Toolkit