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PHOTO: Adam Birkett

Our content accompanies and tracks all the important things we do as part of our workday — as inputs to strategic decisions, as records of exchanges with clients and partners, and as ways to connect.

In the global shakeup that is the COVID-19 pandemic, the turnaround of information to our public and colleagues must be faster and the channels through which we deliver and access that information must be digital. That workflow needs to flow even if it’s a little rough around the edges. And we are all trying to connect to what’s going on out there for the information that will provide answers, breakthroughs, hope.

This is the ultimate test of our ability to share information across vast and diverse user communities — and a glimpse of what good content management can really do. Here are two examples:

1. Registry

Registries are organized systems for collecting, storing, analyzing and sharing information about individuals who have a particular disease, a predisposition to a disease or exposure to some substance or situation that could cause adverse health effects. Vaccination or immunization registries are electronic systems that support the centralized storage and retrieval of immunization events and patient immunization profiles. Local, regional and national governments are putting laws into place to support the collection of immunization records to be stored in one place by public health authorities. Having records in one place enables health care providers to quickly find out if a person is immunized or not when needed. In the event of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak, health care providers can quickly determine who is protected and who is not to prevent the outbreak from spreading.

Immunization information systems will help monitor progress towards eradication of preventable diseases. The number of countries with electronic immunization registries is increasing. The World Health Organization (WHO) is collaborating with countries around the world to help them establish or expand their capacity to monitor vaccination, building on best practices that have advanced registries.

Properly designed registries can provide a real-world view of patient outcomes, safety and effectiveness. That means information has consistent definitions and naming conventions, and a clear and reliable process for collection.

Naming conventions are vital for researchers sharing scientific information with each other and with the public. The virus H1N1, also known as swine flu, emerged in 2009 with up to 89 million cases reported worldwide in one year. Some researchers were calling it H1N1 and others, swine flu: information searches failed to retrieve all the critical scientific knowledge that was available.

WHO developed best practices for naming new human infectious diseases. The final name of any new human disease is assigned by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is managed by WHO. Naming conventions for diseases not only ensure better sharing, it also prevents non-scientific groups from assigning inaccurate names (during the H1N1 crisis, people mistakenly thought that pork might be infectious), or names that are offensive for certain cultures, e.g., naming diseases after the country where they originated.

Related Article: Naming of Parts: What Taxonomies Bring to Enterprise Search

2. Health Information Exchange

Information is everywhere in the health system as well as in health information systems. Electronic health information exchange allows health care providers and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically, to improve the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.

The challenge is defining how the information is to be captured so that it can be used. There is likely lots of information of interest to researchers and public health officials but only a limited set of data that can feasibly be extracted from health services or existing systems.

If laboratory results are received electronically and added to a health care provider’s electronic health record, they can quickly generate a list of patients with, say, diabetes.

Delivering vital health information when seconds count means interoperability — the secure access, exchange and use of electronic health information from other health information technologies for authorized use (under applicable laws). It is a system where:

  • Individuals are at the center of their care.
  • Information comes from many different sources seamlessly, providing a longitudinal picture of their health.
  • Public health agencies and researchers rapidly learn, develop and deliver cutting edge treatments.

Information can come from internal records and external partners (e.g., immunization and disease registries from public health authorities, laboratory information systems, hospital emergency room records) and each source will have their own practices and processes. Technical information management teams as well as legal counsel will need to draw up agreements for capturing and coordinating that information.

In addition to direct exchange used between providers to easily and securely send patient information (e.g., laboratory results), patients can access their own health information through consumer-mediated exchange, allowing them to manage their health care online similar to how they manage their online banking. Patients actively participate in their care program by:

  • Providing their health information to health care professionals.
  • Correcting wrong health information.
  • Tracking and monitoring their own health.

Health information management practices cannot replace direct patient-provider consultations, but it can have a major effect on their care. The right information delivered at critical decision points allows health care professionals to avoid medication errors, improve diagnoses and minimize readmissions to hospital.

Standardization of information management practices and interoperability of systems are the foundations of effective health information sharing — they breathe life into a vital body of knowledge.

Related Article: Why Portability and Interoperability Matter in Hybrid Cloud Environments