December 6, 2023

Researchers are calling for better tracking of chronic diseases

Editor's Note

There are new efforts underway to better harness electronic health record (EHR) data to track chronic diseases, as was done with tracking infectious diseases such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article discussing these efforts appeared in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice in October 2023.

Some highlights include:

  • With the widespread use of EHR systems–in use by 90% of providers, clinicians, and laboratories in the US–there is an incredible amount of data that could be shared with public health departments to drive better community health outcomes. 
  • In the paper, a team led by researchers at the Regenstrief Institute presented guidance for sharing EHR data for chronic disease surveillance.
  • Unlike with infectious diseases, there are no legal requirements to report chronic diseases to public health departments. 
  • The authors write that this information could help public health agencies monitor specific regions for increased rates of diseases like diabetes, allowing for more targeted response in those communities. 

Currently, chronic disease surveillance involves a telephone-based health survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and state health departments, and it takes approximately 2 years for the data to become available. Using EHR-based public health surveillance would speed up data collection and access, and the information collected would be clinical instead of self-reported.


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