The importance of high-quality data standards has never been clearer than now in our public health information technology history. It’s impossible to know 100% what data will be important in the future or what event will occur (natural, emerging, bioterrorism, or government requested) that requires functionality that was previously ignored to take center stage. This is best exemplified by a recent discovery in the STChealth core immunization information system product.

Joe Kelly, STC’s CTO, said, “For over 25 years, this IIS has provided states with the ability to collect, store and use patient immunization events to support their immunization activities. Collecting data is one thing but the value is in using this data. The current pandemic recently shed light on a few data elements long in existence but not utilized to any great extent—specifically race and ethnicity codes.”

He went on to say, “As reporting on these data elements became a pandemic priority, we discovered a software ‘bug’ deep within the code that reduced the accuracy of reports specific to these demographic elements. No existing public health STC jurisdictions had ever required a report on this data and as such, the information being collected was not complete. It was not until this became a key reporting element during the pandemic that our software team at STChealth discovered this bug, which had been in existence for 19 years.”

This situation highlights why every corner of the data collection and reporting efforts for IIS must always operate at 100%.  A 19-year-old bug highlights the importance of evolving the data quality efforts within IIS as well as leveraging evolving technology and software development practices to ensure these significant health data assets continue to be the trusted source of all thing’s immunization.  STC’s vision is simple. The days of health information technology systems being simple data collection registries for historical record storage and limited provider user access are soon to be history.  The systems of a post-2020 pandemic society must be able to capture significantly more information in real-time, ensure the highest quality of incoming records and, most importantly, provide real-time insights for situational awareness, outbreak risk mitigation, resource distribution and allocations—expanding the vaccine-preventable disease ecosystem to larger provider communities, researchers and, most importantly, the consumer. 

Tiffany Dent, STC’s VP of Customer Experience said it best when she said, “Affecting what happens, not seeing what happened, is the single most important paradigm shift required of public health and the systems that support these professionals.”