National Partnership for Women & Families

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Erin Mackay, Associate Director, Health Information Technology Programs

From the desk of ... Erin Mackay

The Power of Data Sharing to Improve Health

When it comes to improving patient care and health outcomes, it is clear that place matters: where people live, work, worship and play affects both individual and population health in powerful ways. Communities nationwide are testing new strategies to address these social determinants of health by sharing and integrating electronic data from multiple sources to identify the root causes of health disparities and gain insight into scalable solutions that would improve health.

Thanks to our partnership with AcademyHealth on the Community Health Peer Learning Program, I have seen firsthand the power of this type of strategic, multi-sector number crunching. For example, the team at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital examined hospitalization data alongside social services data and discovered that a number of patients living in buildings owned by the same landlord were facing harmful housing conditions. This led to complex-wide building inspections and patient and family education about how housing conditions affect health.

Similarly, after finding that some patients were going hungry because families were not receiving their food stamps within the required 30-day time period, the team at Cincinnati Children’s pushed for change and saw the timely processing of food stamps increase from 22 to 92 percent. Data-driven insights like these, and the resulting advocacy efforts, make an enormous difference in the lives of women and families.

There are many other innovative examples captured in AcademyHealth’s new report on 17 national and regional programs,Toward Data-Driven, Cross-Sector and Community-Led Transformation: An Environmental Scan of Select Programs.

The environmental scan establishes a baseline for this emerging field of cross-sector collaborations to improve health. It highlights opportunities to hasten progress toward greater connectivity and collective action. To learn more about this work and to read the full environmental scan, visit the Community Health Peer Learning Program page.


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