Learning From Each Other to Fill In Data Gaps and Achieve Better Outcomes

Marcy Lauck has 20 years of experience in education data warehousing. When she spoke to members of the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) on a recent webinar, she shared an education statistic that sounded very familiar to those of us confronted by the persistent challenges to improving health care outcomes.

“Seventy percent of the factors influencing school performance come from outside the school setting,” she said, citing the seminal 1966 Coleman Report, which called into question the prevalent thinking at the time that school funding was a major determinant of student achievement.

A similar statistic is often cited when describing the factors influencing one’s health, 80 percent of which are from outside the health care system. Members of SHIEC, which hosted the webinar, are clearly aware of this reality as they work to improve health care outcomes and quality by supporting cross-system risk stratification, population health analytics, and other aggregate data analysis.

The education and health sectors, along with many others, have long realized that they need to work together and consider each other’s efforts to achieve the mutual goal of better outcomes. Sharing data among sectors can be a foundational and powerful aspect of facilitating this collaboration.

As co-founder and co-director of the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust (SVRDT), Marcy helped build one of the first education data warehouses, with 16 years of data and more than 60 million records, but it was limited in one important way. “What we were missing was which of our students were receiving services from other agencies, and we needed that info to truly make an impact,” she said during the webinar.

Like many on the social services side, Marcy and her colleagues were hoping to access data from other sectors — such as the foster care system, behavioral health, and probation — in order to get a fuller, more accurate picture of the lives of the children they serve.

After a lot of hard work, SVRDT’s DataZone now includes nightly uploads of information in the FosterVision application from school districts, social services, and juvenile probation. And as the first iteration of the SVRDT’s Secure Information Sharing Environment comes online in March 2018, additional public agencies will contribute and receive data to support more coordinated and streamlined services to improve academic outcomes for children.

As Marcy can attest, getting other sectors to trust each other with their information can be a difficult task. And the type of data collected, the manner in which they’re collected, and the privacy rules governing them vary from sector to sector. In other words, all this potentially powerful data is not interoperable.

The National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC), which is co-led by AcademyHealth and Stewards of Change Institute, is being built to advance progress in this thorny area by increasing collaboration among the sectors that impact health and well-being by improving information-sharing, interoperability, and use of technology. By creating a “community of networks,” NIC is bringing together projects and leaders of innovative interoperability efforts nationwide — including SVRDT — to enhance efficiency, improve outcomes, and advance their own interoperability goals.

This focus on bringing innovators together was one reason we were so pleased to speak during the webinar to SHIEC members, who are on the frontlines of providing the technology foundation for sharing the vast amounts of data that health care stakeholders need. They represent people like our webinar host, Dan Chavez, a respected leader in the field who helped build a community Health Information Exchange and started San Diego on a journey toward broad community collaboration to achieve better data-sharing for population health.

Advances in interoperability will have broad benefits, particularly for at-risk members of society who are often being served by several different sectors that don’t communicate sufficiently with each other, and sometimes not at all. The challenges in getting these sectors to work together go far beyond the technical.

That’s why we’re building NIC. This is an important initiative with significant potential to improve reality on the ground. Please visit www.nic-us.org or email NIC@stewardsofchange.org to get more information and learn how you can get involved.


The National Interoperability Collaborative is a “community of networks” designed to promote greater information-sharing, interoperability, and collaboration in human services, public health, health IT, education, public safety, emergency response, and other relevant domains related to and including the Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being.