Facilitating and improving health information sharing in the U.S.:
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Since the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, health information technology networks have had the potential to connect public health agencies, private clinics, practitioners, and laboratories to share health-related data. Information sharing benefits participating organizations by reducing transaction costs, maintaining collaborative relationships, increasing efficiency in policymaking, being competitive, and finally, leading to desired policy changes and innovation such as policy integration and collaborative governance. In spite of its significance and mutual benefits, little is known about how external and internal features of organizations influence information sharing in public agencies. Hence, this study not only addressed these issues but also aimed to provide further understanding of influential factors on the information-sharing activities of public organizations from three perspectives – the policy, technological, and organizational lenses. Also, this research suggested new measurement for organizational information sharing by specifying the target audience and the activities to share information. The findings reveal that the impacts of the organizational characteristics of local health departments on information sharing are greater than the impacts of the legislation and the use of information technology. Specifically, a certain degree of centralization and formalization – if they do not overly restrict flexibility – can help organizations share information with other agencies by setting organizational goals or providing guidance to achieve the goals. This research also highlights critical roles of human resource management, a strategic plan, and contracting out of public service delivery for better outcomes – in determining the activities and the levels of government with which to share information. In addition, the results imply that information sharing can be an initial step for organizations to seek further collaboration. Taken together, this research found that these policy, technological, and organizational characteristics jointly determine local government agencies’ information sharing. As the United States government has strived to promote information sharing among agencies across sectors to improve policymaking, this study can contribute to identifying the determinants of information sharing and understanding how the federal government can help local and state governments prepare guidelines and secure needed resources to actively share information.
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