Patient Data Sharing During Health Emergencies

June 5, 2014

HHS is working to craft an agreement to share public health information in the event of a pandemic between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a collaborative effort is underway to share information in the event of health emergencies. This Declaration of Intent builds on existing International Health Regulations, as well as the 2012 North American Plan for Animal and Pandemic Influenza. In essence, neighboring countries need to develop agreements and collaborate on shared public health issues. A recent example is the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

According to an HHS press release, the Declaration of Intent calls on the three countries to:

• "Share public communications plans, statements, and other communications products related to health emergencies with each other prior to their public release;

• "Apprise other appropriate authorities, depending on the type of health emergency, within their respective governments, when the declaration is invoked;

• "Conduct an annual short communications exercise to improve joint coordination; and

• "Hold recurrent meetings, as they may mutually determine, to review and propose amendments to the Declaration of Intent."

For physicians and other healthcare providers, especially those located in border states, reporting diseases or conditions to the CDC and state government agencies is crucial. Reporting information can not only assist in containing pandemics here in the United States, but also enable the U.S. to uphold its obligations under various agreements, such as the Declaration of Intent.