As highlighted earlier, the Committee has identified a number of areas that should be considered for implementation by the HHS Data Council. These include the review and implementation of core data elements and definitions within departmental data collection activities; formation of public-private work groups to assist in promulgating data elements for which consensus has been reached or for undertaking additional study on critical elements for which there are no standardized definitions. Additionally, a consensus must be reached on the unique personal identifier.
Participants in the various meetings had discussed ways to disseminate new data items, seek input, and inform data collectors of recommended elements and definitions. It was felt that the Committee should consider designing a WEB page on the Internet that could be used for these activities. The Committee could recommend such an activity, but it would require departmental staff to actually design, input data, and monitor and update the site.
Several organizations have volunteered to facilitate dissemination and feedback of the core data elements project. These activities could take several forms. One would be through the use of a state-level or regional-level organization that already has a line of communication with other organizations. An example of this could be NAHDO which could undertake to work with its members. Another form would be through an organization that already has a WEB page; several organizations indicated that they would be willing to test the sharing of this information through their Internet sites.
It is of vital importance to participate in and/or be members of the numerous data standards groups. Currently there is little or no input from the public health field for several reasons. One major reason is the staff and dollar resources required to travel to and participate in several meetings per group per year. Another problem is that, although the HHS Data Council has recently established a Health Data Standards Committee, until the past few months, there has been no central location within the Department for monitoring the activities of the data standards groups. Throughout the meetings it became apparent that many standards-setting groups are moving ahead without broader input, for example, from those in the public health and epidemiology fields. Place holders will be set, and, in some cases data items and definitions decided on, before national and local public health agencies and organizations will be able to act.
It became obvious early in the meetings that the identification of core data elements, their definitions, and the consensus-building needed to encourage use of these items would be an ongoing and full-time activity for several years. Although the Committee serves a very useful purpose in bringing together the experts to discuss and consider these elements, it takes dedicated departmental staff to keep the process underway on a day-to-day basis. The Committee recommends that the Department fund these activities on an ongoing basis.