IT used to score top states in emergency preparedness

In a report that found states are showing the highest scores ever for health emergency preparedness, health IT is seen as a major indicator. Experts, however, caution that in order for states to close the gap on existing vulnerabilities an "ongoing investment to rebuild and modernize our public health system" is required.

The eighth annual study, Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism, was released by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. States received one point for achieving an indicator or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. The data for the indicators are from publicly available sources or were provided from public officials.

State preparedness scores:

  • Ten out of 10: Arkansas, North Dakota Washington state,
  • Nine out of 10: Alabama, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • Eight out of 10: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wyoming
  • Seven out of 10: Washington, D.C., Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas
  • Six out of 10: Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota
  • Five out of 10: Iowa, Montana

Officials said the scores reflect nearly 10 years of progress to improve how the nation prevents, identifies, and contains new disease outbreaks and bioterrorism threats and responds to the aftermath of natural disasters.

The report provides the public and policymakers with an independent analysis of the progress and vulnerabilities including. Key findings of two IT indicators show that gaps still exist:

  • Seven states cannot currently share data electronically with healthcare providers.
  • Ten states do not have an electronic syndromic surveillance system that can report and exchange information to rapidly detect disease outbreaks.

"There is an emergency for emergency health preparedness in the United States," said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. "This year, the Great Recession is taking its toll on emergency health preparedness. Unfortunately, the recent and continued budget cuts will exacerbate the vulnerable areas in U.S. crisis response capabilities and have the potential to reverse the progress we have made over the last decade."

According to the report, while states have made progress, there are still a series of major ongoing gaps in preparedness, including in basic infrastructure and funding, biosurveillance, maintaining an adequate and expertly trained workforce, developing and manufacturing vaccines and medicines, surge capacity for providing care in major emergencies and helping communities cope with and recover from emergencies.

The report provides a series of recommendations that address the ongoing major gaps in emergency health preparedness, including: