Sequoia Project issues health IT recommendations for next crisis

The Sequoia Project’s Emergency Preparedness Information Workgroup, which comprises states, federal partners, health information exchanges and others, released a white paper this week outlining lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and health IT recommendations for the future. 

The paper, Pandemic Response Insights and Recommendations, stressed that healthcare stakeholders must consider public health entities as collaborators and partners, with equal access to data.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought circumstances that state and local public health agencies had to quickly act on. Everyone was forced to create a plan of action for a moving target; every day seemed to bring new and evolving information,” said Debbie Condrey, chief operations officer and chief information officer of The Sequoia Project as well as the EPIW facilitator, in a statement.  

“The workgroup developed clear, actionable recommendations that address policy and regulatory issues, resources, equity and more. For future emergencies, we are all better ready to react quickly,” Condrey added.  

WHY IT MATTERS

The workgroup is composed of 18 members representing organizations tasked with delivering emergency response services directly to residents of states and localities, as well as federal partners.  

To develop the white paper, this group convened over the course of several months to discuss gaps in current strategies.

After a so-called SWOT Analysis investigating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the current response, the workgroup issued 17 recommendations for federal, state and local entities:

The EPIW noted that the release of the white paper is not its ultimate goal. In 2022, it says it also intends to add additional public health and emergency response stakeholders to its membership; prioritize recommendations and refine deliverables; and continue to provide a community of practice forum where members may openly discuss challenges surrounding responding to an emergency such as the pandemic.  

It also plans to select one or two recommendations where the EPIW can be helpful to public health and to emergency response organizations in a relatively short amount of time.  

“During an emergency response, it is our assertion that public health is not currently seen as a partner in the healthcare ecosystem,” read the white paper. “Going forward, our overarching recommendation is that there must be a shift in this thinking and practice in order to provide consistent and timely emergency response.”  

THE LARGER TREND  

The fractured public health data ecosystem came into stark relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, with shifting federal priorities and governmental mandates contributing to confusion and chaos at the local level.  

Although the situation has smoothed out somewhat, gaps in visibility remain.

At HIMSS21 in Las Vegas, National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi stressed the importance of overcoming information silos.   

“We spent billions of dollars to lay a foundation, the EHR systems across the country,” Tripathi said. “We didn’t make corresponding investments in our public health systems to enable us to exploit in the modern age what our systems can offer in terms of information and functionality.”  

ON THE RECORD  

“The wealth of the workgroup’s on-the-ground experience is invaluable as we look ahead to the next public health emergency,” said Nora Belcher, executive director of Texas eHealth Alliance and EPIW chair, in a statement.  

“With The Sequoia Project’s support, we’ve built a community of practice for experts to share, learn, and motivate as we move this white paper from research to action,” Belcher continued.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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