Data Sharing for Health: Communities Join Forces to Share What Works

By Veenu Aulakh, Executive Director, Center for Care Innovations

I had an opportunity to attend the All In: Data for Community Health National Meeting, which focused on supporting learning and networking around multi-sector data collaboration. It was an exciting event because it pulled together individuals from many different sectors beyond just health care. There were people from criminal justice, housing, social services, research, technology, data visualization and policy. Everyone was committed to demonstrating the value of multi-sector data integration to improve community health.

I appreciated the focus on creating a network of networks. I learned that over the last 4-5 years, more than 12 different funders have invested over $263 million in data-driven community based initiatives. Each of these programs offers their own funding, program support and technical assistance. This event brought together these cross-sector collaborative efforts to cross-pollinate lessons and share the best ideas from across the country.

We are still early in our journey. We have much that we need to understand about how to advance multi-sector data integration and sharing to improve community health. Still I saw a few compelling examples that I thought I would share.

In San Diego, the fire rescue team works closely to align the focus of their paramedics with clinics and emergency departments, as well as law enforcement and meals on wheels. Through this collaboration, they identify how to support the most medically and socially complex patients in a more proactive way. Their home-grown data system coupled with a strong Health Information Exchange (HIE) makes this possible.

I also learned about an initiative happening in Baltimore around preventing falls in older adults. The collaboration of the city, their HIE, a few universities and non-profits identifies “hot spot” areas where falls are frequent. Then they can target facility repairs, home visiting programs and exercise-based interventions.

What was most inspiring about these stories was the laser focus on identifying needs communities cared about that were also informed by data. The examples that stood out to me focused on issues that were concrete enough to address with a core committed group of partners but also benefited by having different sectors working together. The other common element in the success stories was some type of shared data system (either an HIE or a home-grown solution). It was clear that the challenges around data sharing are real and require more attention and focused efforts to make data available and find ways to address the privacy and legal challenges that occur with any multi-sector effort.

I was also inspired by all the cool community level data visualization experiments happening across the country. In an ideal world, every community would have something like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s neighborhood mapping application. We are early in this journey and must get smarter faster by stealing shamelessly and spreading those lessons that work.

About the Author

Veenu Aulakh is the Executive Director of the Center for Care Innovations (CCI). CCI is a non-profit organization focused on transforming care for vulnerable populations. CCI does this by inspiring, teaching and spreading innovation among the health care organizations that serve them. Veenu is responsible for the organization’s overall strategy, building critical partnerships, and helping to ensure CCI continues to make an impact.