Public Health

Just as the revolution in information technology has already changed the way in which organizations like banks, supermarkets, and even government services understand the people they serve, the revolution in health information technology (health IT) will change the way we address the health of our communities and our nation. Health IT can help:

Identify safety problems. Providers in some areas can use EHR systems to quickly find and notify patients who may be at risk for problems related to unsafe drugs or medical devices.

Detect epidemics. The medical community can use EHRs to find unexpected increases in diseases within a community, enabling health officials to take action sooner to protect the public. Patterns of prescribing in pharmacy records could even help detect bioterrorism attacks on food systems or water supplies.

Improve overall health care. With access to treatment and outcome data for thousands or millions of patients, researchers can improve care by exploring questions such as which treatments are most effective. Most researchers, public health departments, and others who might have access to health IT data for these purposes are bound by federal law to maintain individual patient privacy, and in most cases, will not be accessing information that is identifiable.

The Vermont Department of Health has long maintained the Vermont Immunization Registry to enable health care providers to keep electronic records of when an immunization was given. Providers can use the registry to quickly look up if a patient has or has not received a particular vaccine. VITL is now working with the Vermont Department of Health to make getting information into and out of this database more efficient for practitioners, by linking it directly to their electronic health records systems.