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Lower BLRV Means More Work for State Health Departments

By John Schaeffer, CEO of SSG  

When the CDC lowered the blood lead reference value (BLRV) for children from 5 to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter last October, they flagged many more individuals as needing testing and medical care. This is only a good thing for our nation’s children, who now stand a much better chance of having an unhealthy blood lead level detected and treated. And while state and local health officials are happy to improve the overall health of kids, an official who reads this article is already preparing for the incoming flood of labor this change represents.  

With the new standard in effect, many children who would have tested below the old threshold would now be considered at risk for lead-related health issues. Each such child is another case-worth of work for state health department officials. At the city and state levels, public health program administrators must also contact and track the new patients caught in this wider net.  

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Public health officials have to organize and execute local plans to combat lead risk levels in the populace, and react to medical testing for blood lead content in children. They must contact affected parents and caregivers to set up treatment and go over any local programs that would help test or treat children for potential lead-related complications. And, of course, they have to monitor and track all the new cases that would not have fallen under the old BLRV. Without the right organizational tools, all these new cases could easily overwhelm even the hardest-working local health officials.  

The need to standardize 

Technology varies widely across medical organizations. One of the biggest challenges for lead poisoning prevention programs is getting up-to-date information from the labs and doctors’ offices to the state, delaying the state’s awareness of elevated lead levels to kick off the case management process. Sometimes labs don’t have the technology to send it in the proper format, or are delayed sending information over. Such slowdowns can be a serious problem when children must be treated for lead exposure and time is a factor. 

These difficulties are further compounded by the need to observe important restrictions and standards. Medical information is highly sensitive and private, and enforced by regulations such as HIPAA. More complicated recordkeeping systems create more points of human and computer error when moving information around. Ensuring compliance can thus create further slowdowns or risk a data breach.  

As with many other problems that government officials face, the solution in this case is digital. A comprehensive digital platform that tracks all data throughout each patient’s medical journey can streamline and simplify recordkeeping. Rather than wasting time hunting down records between departments, healthcare officials can easily access a single, easy-to-use database. And these databases are already programmed to ensure compliance with necessary government requirements.  

Cutting-edge data platforms are often paperless and intuitive for healthcare workers. There is thus no need for manual data entry or documents existing in different formats in different departments. All information is available to everyone at once. 

Easy for all 

Standardizing communication and interoperability between state health departments and out-of-date labs is important when so many new patients enter a system. A digital platform can be shared across an entire department or even many departments within a jurisdiction. Workers need not spend their time transferring or double-checking files. Once in the system, the data is equally available to all stakeholders.  

Adopting a cutting-edge platform means integrating data analytics, cloud computing, and AI with the convenience of AI technology. This speeds the process of organizing, reporting, and analyzing data at all levels, and removes the chance of conflicting information causing unnecessary holdups. Government health organizations that already use such systems will find that the new BLRV files are already automatically tagged for the appropriate programs without workers needing to lift a finger. 

Crunching the numbers 

We should encourage the widest possible adoption of a digital platform by government healthcare organizations. BLRV is just the first of many public health parameters that will change moving forward. The more elastic and adaptable our tracking systems, the more appealing they will be to a widespread user-base. The more widespread the user-base, the more comprehensive a dataset it can apply for that most precious of modern information technologies: data analytics.  

By crunching the numbers and analyzing data trends, government agencies can determine where to place their resources. Health departments can discover what is causing spikes in blood lead levels among citizens, and plan ways to counter these patterns. Once countered, the rise in public health will also alleviate the strain on medical professionals. Being proactive and anticipating needs are what our government employees want to do with their time — upgrading programs that improve and even save the lives of the citizens they serve.  

John Schaeffer leads SSG with a vision to apply his combined IT and management consulting experience to enhance public sector organizations. Previously, he worked on a consulting basis within financial services for Goldman Sachs, Prudential Investments, and Credit Suisse First Boston. John holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.

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