CDC Looking for IT Talent to Overhaul Disease Surveillance System

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking for two “experienced and energetic innovators” to help expand and modernize the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (NNDSS).

The two new hires?a software platforms architect and a data integration and management architect?would be part of the CDC Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program and would work hand-in-hand with CDC scientists to bring the exchange of disease data between states and the Federal government into the 21st century.

Current systems used to exchange disease data between states and CDC are several decades old, according to Paula Yoon, project lead for the system overhaul. In addition, government jurisdictions reporting to CDC all use multiple programs, each with different formats, making the exchange of data time consuming and potentially error-prone, Yoon said.

The reason for the platform overhaul is simple: “Disease surveillance is critical to keeping our nation safe,” she said. “Ultimately our goal at CDC is to get the right data into the right hands in the right form to take public health action to keep America safe.”

The NNDSS is a national disease surveillance program that enables local, state, and Federal public health agencies to share data to monitor, control, and prevent the spread of approximately 90 infectious and noninfectious diseases.

According to CDC, in the past year, disease surveillance data have been used to monitor the Ebola virus, track measles, and investigate hundreds of food-associated outbreaks.

Modernization of NNDSS’s platform will allow CDC to build capacity to use data from electronic health record systems in the future, according to CDC officials, who said the agency hopes to revamp the new platform to be:

•    adaptable to rapidly changing technology;
•    versatile in addressing evolving health threats;
•    adept at making effective use of health data; and
•    capable of meeting demands for timely, population-specific, and geographically specific information.

CDC says the two new EIRs will evaluate the data standards, integration, and provisioning model currently used and recommend new approaches for improvement and expansion, including more efficient and accurate processes for capturing business requirements for emerging disease surveillance needs at CDC.

In a recent blog, current CDC EIR Paula Braun advises potential candidates: “Just apply.”

“About a year ago, I was in your shoes,” she writes. “I’m glad I did.”

Braun says the experience has not only allowed her to improve the nation’s health, but it has allowed her to grow in her profession. “As a current Entrepreneur-in-Residence, I’m allowed to fail, and I work with people who understand that failure is what allows us to test our assumptions and uncover clues to make our solutions better,” she says.

More information on how to apply can be found here.

Diana Manos is a MeriTalk contributing writer.

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