In the post-Affordable Care Act era marked by interorganizational collaborations and availability of large amounts of electronic data from other community partners, it is imperative to assess the interoperability of information systems used by the local health departments (LHDs).
The 2015 Informatics capacity and Needs Assessment Survey was conducted by Dr. Gulzar Shah, associate dean for research at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, on behalf of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). This study describes the level of interoperability of LHD information systems and identify factors associated with lack of interoperability.
[Photo: Dr. Gulzar Shah]
This mixed-methods research uses data from the 2015 Informatics Capacity and Needs Assessment Survey, with a target population of all LHDs in the United States. A representative sample of 650 LHDs was drawn using a stratified random sampling design. A total of 324 completed responses were received (50 percent response rate). Qualitative data were used from a key informant interview study of LHD informatics staff from across the United States. Qualitative data were independently coded by two researchers and analyzed thematically. Survey data were cleaned, bivariate comparisons were conducted, and a multivariable logistic regression was run to characterize factors associated with interoperability.
For 30 percent of LHDs, no systems were interoperable, and 38 percent of LHD respondents indicated some of the systems were interoperable. Significant determinants of interoperability included LHDs having leadership support (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 3.54), control of information technology budget allocation (AOR = 2.48), control of data systems (AOR = 2.31), having a strategic plan for information systems (AOR = 1.92), and existence of business process analysis and redesign (AOR = 1.49).
In conclusion, interoperability of all systems may be an informatics goal, but only a small proportion of LHDs reported having interoperable systems, pointing to a substantial need among LHDs nationwide.
The study titled “Interoperability of Information Systems Managed and Used by the Local Health Departments,” was published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.
Dr. Gulzar Shah, associate dean for Research at Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University was the lead author.