Proposed NJ legislation could unlock innovations in population health

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Working on the front lines of health care delivery, we have been struck by the extent to which our patients interface with other systems besides health care. Each of these systems collects important data about the individuals and populations they serve. But because this data exists in isolation, researchers are unable to investigate the nuanced complexities causing persistent systematic challenges to health and wellbeing.

A new type of data system, called integrated data systems, can securely provide a more holistic view of the many factors affecting health. Through an integrated data system, researchers are able to use de-identified data to explore population-level problems cutting across multiple systems and sectors.

This approach has the potential to support evidence for more successful and cost-effective services, while also protecting consumer privacy and ensuring data-security. Integrated data systems offer an efficient means to evaluate programs, making use of de-identified data already collected by public entities. Finding patterns across systems can also help reveal potential improvements to redundant or overlapping services and new ways to cost-savings.

Following in the footsteps of several other states, New Jersey could soon have an integrated data system of its own. A proposed bill (S3220) in the NJ legislature would reduce barriers to data integration to create a statewide Integrated Population Health Database (iPHD). The infrastructure created by the bill would ensure consumer privacy and oversight. Rutgers Center for State Health Policy would host the database, which would link only those datasets that are needed for research purposes, on a project-by project basis.

The Camden Coalition has been a driving force behind this legislation, which currently has support from legislators of both major parties. “This is what we should be doing with data,” Camden Coalition Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Brenner explained to NJ Spotlight. “Taking behavioral data, social data, healthcare data, and beginning to understand the population…and build high-reliability interventions for them.”

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