Sunday, December 19, 2010

State Health Plan Released

“Healthiest Wisconsin 2020: Everyone Living Better, Longer” is a bold vision reflecting the plan’s goals—to improve health across the life span and eliminate health disparities. The state Department of Health Services is required by legislation to produce a public health agenda for the state at least every ten years.

The document is not only a state health plan but also an ongoing process using science, quality improvement, partnerships, and large-scale community engagement. More than 1,500 people advised, created, and helped to develop the plan.

The plan identifies 23 focus areas to be addressed by public health systems and state communities in the next decade. There are 9 infrastructure focus areas and 12 health focus areas. The infrastructure focus area “Systems to Manage and Share Health Information and Knowledge” discusses present HIT activities and future objectives.

This focus area reports that the state has many health information technologies in place or coming online shortly. The plan emphasizes the need to improve systems that support health, such as research, health literacy, sustainable funding, partnerships and information systems.

However, while progress has been made, there still remains a great deal to be accomplished before Wisconsin has an integrated electronic public health infrastructure capable of delivering statewide and community level data.

According to the plan, Wisconsin has made headway in implementing health information technology and so far has:

• Implemented data systems to support immunizations, vital records, communicable disease surveillance, electronic laboratory reporting, business intelligence, maternal and child health, environmental tracking, and the Women, Infants and Children Program

• Provides hospital admission, discharge, and transfer data for monitoring emerging health threats in southeast Wisconsin and then sent to state and local health departments through the Wisconsin Health Information Exchange

• Made available statewide healthcare claims with data spanning multiple systems and settings available to state and local health departments through the Wisconsin Health Information Organization

However, according to the report, in spite of the progress, funding to support the major public health data systems, is uncertain from year to year and often has to meet specific program objectives set by federal government agencies. So therefore, public health departments often have little discretion on which information technology initiatives to pursue.

Also specific programs often have access to good quality data about their activities but this is not universally true. Complicated data-use agreements often pose barriers to data access and integration and sometimes, the data many not be complete.

In other cases, the data in a given system can be of high quality and value to many program areas, but unavailable because of technical and/or programmatic limitations. As a result programs have difficulty developing a comprehensive picture of a given client or population group.

The state is striving by 2020 to have:

• Efficient, appropriate, and secure flow of electronic information among health information systems
• Access to a nationally certified electronic health record systems and health IT exchange available to all health consumers, providers, and public health officials
• Electronic health information systems to collect comparable data to allow for the measurement of the magnitude and trends of disparities in health outcomes

To view the report, go to or for questions, email Margaret Schmelzer, State Health Plan Director at