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Little is known about the nationwide patterns in the use of public health informatics systems by local health departments (LHDs) and whether LHDs tend to possess informatics capacity across a broad range of information functionalities or for a narrower range. This study examined patterns and correlates of the presence of public health informatics functionalities within LHDs through the creation of a typology of LHD informatics capacities.
Data was available for 459 LHDs from the 2013 National Association of County and City Health Officials Profile survey. An empirical typology was created through cluster analysis of six public health informatics functionalities: immunization registry, electronic disease registry, electronic lab reporting, electronic health records, health information exchange, electronic syndromic surveillance system. Three-categories of usage emerged (Low, Mid, High). LHD financial, workforce, organization, governance, and leadership characteristics, and types of services provided were explored across categories.
Low-informatics capacity LHDs had lower levels of use of each informatics functionalities than high-informatics capacity LHDs. Mid-informatics capacity LHDs had usage levels equivalent to high-capacity LHDs for the three most common functionalities and equivalent to low-capacity LHDs for the three least common functionalities. Informatics capacity was positively associated with service provision, especially for population-focused services.
Informatics capacity is clustered within LHDs. Increasing LHD informatics capacity may require LHDs with low levels of informatics capacity to expand capacity across a range of functionalities, taking into account their narrower service portfolio. LHDs with mid-level informatics capacity may need specialized support in enhancing capacity for less common technologies.