Ushering in 2017 with an Important Certainty: The Need for Data Sharing and Interoperability

Whatever our individual politics or perspectives, there’s one thing I think everyone can agree on as we begin the New Year: We’re entering a period of disruption in the realm of health and human services (among others).  While no one can predict the extent or impact of the changes that will take place, it’s evident that the policy landscape will be significantly reshaped in the years to come. The HHS-related needs of our country’s people are not likely to diminish, however; indeed, it’s possible they will grow. And that means innovation, information-sharing, interoperability and technology will play increasingly important roles in creating new solutions, improving processes, cutting costs and delivering better outcomes.

Stewards of Change Institute is committed to being more engaged than ever in addressing the shifting health and healthcare landscape in our country. We intend to do that by continuing to provide thought leadership, by offering concrete proposals for building on the progress that has already been made, and by engaging with the private and public sectors to put those proposals into practice. Here are just a few examples of the work we’re doing and planning for 2017:

·         Researching and writing a Guidance Document outlining the importance of interoperability to improving HHS effectiveness and efficiency. This report – in partnership with the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) will focus on the opioid/heroin epidemic and the Flint water crisis as use cases to demonstrate the need for better connectivity and data-sharing. We will share this document with the field and the new Administration when it’s completed in a few months.

·         Organizing a regional Open DataFest in Los Angeles, which will take place next week. This will be the fourth DataFest we’ve run in California (three statewide and two regional) and it will be our first focusing on the benefits of interoperability and data-sharing among Early Childhood Education, Child Welfare and Behavioral Health. Thanks to First5LA, the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, and the California Health and Human Services Agency for partnering with us on this innovative event.   

·         Preparing our 12th National Symposium, which will take place in June, again in partnership with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This promises to be one of our most important annual event to date, because it will focus explicitly on the need for interoperability, information-sharing and technology during a period of potentially historic change. And it will provide a forum for attendees of every political strip to engage in constructive discussions about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

·         Working with a national research organization, a state department of social services and IBM to develop a Proof of Concept to demonstrate the value of using unstructured and structured data to better-predict risk and safety for children involved with Child Welfare.  We plan to report more about the results from this research during our annual symposium.

I hope you’ll agree that we are living up to the promise of the Stewards of Change Institute. It plays the roles of convener and thought-leader, to be sure. But we also hope we’re accomplishing much more. At this historic time, we will remain involved at the policy level to affect positive systemic change, even as we work at the grass-roots level to implement that change. I’m very proud to lead this unique organization, and am extremely grateful for the support and partnership we receive every day.

On behalf of all of us at Stewards of Change, I wish you a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

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