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  1. Walker, Daniel M. MPH
  2. Diana, Mark L. PhD


Context: Health information technology (IT) has the potential to improve the nation's public health infrastructure. In support of this belief, meaningful use incentives include criteria for hospitals to electronically report to immunization registries, as well as to public health agencies for reportable laboratory results and syndromic surveillance. Electronic reporting can facilitate faster and more appropriate public health response. However, it remains unclear the extent that hospitals have adopted IT for public health efforts.


Objective: To examine hospital adoption of IT for public health and to compare hospitals capable of using and not using public health IT.


Design: Cross-sectional design with data from the 2012 American Hospital Association annual survey matched with data from the 2013 American Hospital Association Information Technology Supplement. Multivariate logistic regression was used to compare hospital characteristics. Inverse probability weights were applied to adjust for selection bias because of survey nonresponse.


Participants: All acute care general hospitals in the United States that matched across the surveys and had complete data available were included in the analytic sample.


Main Outcome Measures: Three separate outcome measures were used: whether the hospital could electronically report to immunization registries, whether the hospital could send electronic laboratory results, and whether the hospital can participate in syndromic surveillance.


Results: A total of 2841 hospitals met the inclusion criteria. Weighted results show that of these hospitals, 62.7% can electronically submit to immunization registries, 56.6% can electronically report laboratory results, and 54.4% can electronically report syndromic surveillance. Adjusted and weighted results from the multivariate analyses show that small, rural hospitals and hospitals without electronic health record systems lag in the adoption of public health IT capabilities.


Conclusion: While a majority of hospitals are using public health IT, the infrastructure still has significant room for growth. Differences in hospitals' adoption of public health IT may exacerbate existing health disparities.