A top Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official in charge of preparedness and response said today that the agency is interested in the development of automated patient reporting technologies to boost the government’s ability to improve diagnosis and treatment.

Nikki Bratcher-Bowman, who is the principal deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and chief operating officer for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at HHS, talked about the potential of automating the reporting of patient data at AFCEA Bethesda’s 15th Annual Health IT Event.

She spoke about the advantages of that approach in the context of HHS’ actions during the coronavirus pandemic to create the HHS Protect platform in 2020 to provide a common operating picture and a central hub to collect, integrate, and share COVID-19 data in near-real time across Federal agencies and with state, local, territorial, and tribal partners.

The platform, which brings together COVID-19 data for sharing among critical response partners, was transitioned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2022.

Speaking today about harnessing IT to better respond to the pandemic, Bratcher-Bowman talked about the value of HHS’ collaboration across agencies and with the private sector, and how that effort driven by a “single-minded focus on COVID … unlocked collaboration that we’ve never seen before.”

The HHS ASPR function that she directs, Bratcher-Bowman said, has a broad group of healthcare problems to focus on. But central to its work in recent years has been combatting diseases like COVID-19, and “working across the healthcare system to gather data for real-time decision making.”

“Critical to that is the need for innovative IT solutions,” she said.

Looking forward from the COVID-19 focus, she said “we must also anticipate sustained and continued evolution and enhancements so that large data management efforts can be relevant for all hazards of the government that we need to address.”

“With that in mind on a clinical basis, we would like … to see support for the expanded use of health IT for safer clinical practices to prevent and address adverse events,” Bratcher-Bowman said, “by building automated patient safety and rapid reporting features into the health IT infrastructure.”

Using real-time data, “health IT has such potential to reduce diagnostic error” and to improve care through better use of precision medicine, and assist in improving diagnoses and treatments, she said.

“Using data to help with decision-making diagnosis and targeted treatment is becoming a reality by harnessing datasets across the country,” she said, adding, “this is a significant area of interest for the Federal government.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.