Yes, We Can Share Information, Improve Outcomes AND Protect Privacy!

I’m going to start today with a confession: I am a true believer. Preaching and teaching the value of information-sharing and interoperability to improve health and human services (and thereby people’s lives) is not only my job; it is my passion. So I was honored when the National League of Cities recently asked me to moderate a webinar titled “Sharing Data for Better Results.” The event took place on Wednesday, December 3, and I’m delighted to report that over 100 professionals participated, representing all levels of government and industry from coast to coast.

In a nutshell, what they heard was several presenters explaining not just the theoretical reasons for breaking down “silos” to improve processes and outcomes but – most important – providing real-life, on-the-ground examples from several jurisdictions around the country showing that the theory, in practice, really works! For more details, follow this link. 

The centerpiece of the webinar was a new publication, also titled “Sharing Data for Better Results,” which was jointly produced by NLC and Stewards of Change (SOC), an organization that I’m proud to lead.  This interactive toolkit, which you can download at no charge, summarizes information on federal data-sharing laws and regulations; its purpose is to help local elected officials, agency leaders and city staff use integrated data to improve services, while respecting the privacy of residents. That last element – privacy – is critically important. Unless we get this component right, there’s no straight path for jurisdictions to follow for implementing innovative approaches that truly advance HHS services.  

For anyone who doesn’t know us, SOC is a consultancy that is the “action arm” of the Stewards of Change Institute, a unique national “think and do” tank dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children, families and communities. The Institute works across the U.S. on programs and projects such as the one on which we collaborated with NLC, including another confidentiality toolkit with the State of New York and comparable initiatives with other federal, state and local partners – from California to Illinois to Pennsylvania – who have invited us in to assist them in thinking through and implementing effective, cost-saving practices relating to information-sharing and interoperability in HHS.

Please take a look at our website, www.stewardsofchange.org, to learn more about our organization and its unique work. You’ll notice that it includes years of consulting, training and implementation related to confidentiality at the local, regional and national levels – culminating, of course, with the publication this year of our toolkits on the subject. Feel free to contact me directly to learn more.

Separately, please stay tuned for information about a series of events we’re planning in 2015 to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, notably including our annual symposium, titled “Advancing Social Determinants of Health and Wellness through Responsible Information Sharing.” Itwill take place in Baltimore next June in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Finally, for now, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which made yesterday’s webinar possible, and to a few of the people who made it so successful: Clifford Johnson, Executive Director of the NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families; Uma Ahluwalia, Director of Montgomery County (MD) Department of HHS; Sonia Bhagwakar, of the Illinois Department of Aging; Andrew Wong, President and CEO of AJWI; and my friend and colleague at SOCI, Richard Gold, who was instrumental in producing the confidentiality toolkit.

Thank you all for doing such important work – and for sharing my passion.
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