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This section provides a high level view of system capabilities and interfaces to other applications.
The Environmental Public Health Tracking (EPHT) Network will be a nationwide network that integrates environmental and public health systems at the national, state, and local levels. It will consist of both national summarized data repositories and a system of distributed, diverse data sources that can allow data owners to share their data. By integrating various hazard, exposure, and health effect information systems, the EPHT Network will allow data to be linked at local, state, regional, or national levels. The Network will also protect sensitive data (such as data that include individual identifiers) from unauthorized use and allow the secure exchange of data within and between local, state, and federal agencies. Through use of standards, such as PHIN standards and the EPA Exchange Network, the EPHT Network will implement a common data “vocabulary” for environmental public health tracking that will improve collaboration and allow direct electronic data sharing. The Network will include an extensive security model, based on PHIN standards, to ensure that appropriate protections for data are provided.
The key benefits of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network are shown in the table below.
|Table 3. Benefits of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network|
|1. Provide timely information to all users.|
|2. Integrate local, state, and national databases of environmental hazards, environmental exposures, and health effects.|
|3. Enable the ongoing analysis, integration, and interpretation of environmental hazards, exposure, and health effects data to control and prevent environmentally related health problems in the community.|
|4. Allow broad analysis across geographic and political boundaries.|
|5. Aid research by providing easier access to environmental and public health data (e.g. the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and secondary data contact look-up information).|
|6. Promote interoperable systems via compliance with standards.|
|7. Identify gaps in environmental and public health data systems through network development and use.|
|8. Increase environmental public health capacity at state and local levels.|
|9. Increase collaboration and partnerships among traditional health and environmentally focused entities at the federal, state, and local levels via network development and use.|
|10. Provide a means to enhance and improve data (e.g., geo-coding).|
|11. Contribute to PHIN by helping define standards to better integrate environmental and public health data.|
|12. Provide a secure, reliable, and expandable means to link environmental and health data.|
Assumptions and Dependencies
The following assumptions and dependencies are related to the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network:
- The EPHT Network will be compliant with the architecture and data/messaging standards of the Public Health Information Network (PHIN).
- The EPHT Network will be compliant with federal privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- The EPHT Network will respect state regulations.
- The EPHT Network must adhere to regulations and standards of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- The EPHT Network efforts may contribute to the development of PHIN standards.
- The EPHT Network will be compatible with EPA Exchange Network data and messaging standards, where applicable.
- The EPHT Network must have the capability to accept, route, and process HL7 version 3 messages.
- The EPHT Network must be independent of a specific technology platform.
- The EPHT Network will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – section 508(a).
- Stakeholders will be available to provide appropriate input to define requirements.
Licensing and Installation
Licensing and installation requirements to implement the EPHT Network are unknown. These will be identified in a later release of this document.
Proposed Operating Environment
Some key features of the operating environment are:
- browser-based interfaces,
- secure Internet-based network,
- distributed data sources and a central summary data repository,
- data access within states, and across state and regional boundaries,
- tools for data visualization, analysis, and reporting.
This section identifies additional options that were considered as possible alternatives for the solution described in this document, but are no longer thought to be feasible. Strengths and weaknesses for each alternative considered are presented.
Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) System
An alternative to the EPHT Network is to use a single commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system to track environmental and public health data and manage the release and sharing of data according to the agreed-upon guidelines for data exchange (Trading Partner Agreement (TPA)). However, no such system exists. A slight variation to this would be to use components of the COTS software, along with messaging software, to implement various portions of the Network. This would involve using the EPHT Program’s development standards and customizing the COTS software package to create a network that can send environmental and public health data by the TPA data-exchange process. Components of COTS software will most likely be used as part of the Network.
National data warehouse of all EPHT data
The proposed solution of a central data warehouse or repository of all EPHT data was discussed, but the volume of data was thought to be too large to make this a practical alternative. Privacy issues also make this a non-viable alternative. Although the EPHT Network will not comprise of a single data repository, several other smaller data repositories may exist within the Network, including one or more national databases.