NEHA November 2022 Journal of Environmental Health

November 2022 • Journal of Environmental Health 45 the code can be noted in the data dictionary along with the acceptable ranges for each field. This process will help eliminate confusion when comparing data over time and as ranges change. The electronic inspection data collection system should be aligned with this form (and a paper form should be available). Use the code for the inspection form and ensure there is a consistent scoring methodology for the inspection data collection. Storing Data To provide access to inspection data for consumers, regulators, industry, and other stakeholders, the platform in which data are stored plays a critical role. Jurisdictions want to develop a centralized electronic database, whether web-based or cloud-based, with controlled access for inspection data. Ideally, the electronic data system will update when there is a new entry from a field application (e.g., tablet) and conduct automated updates and uploads on a regular basis. Jurisdictions need to maximize the workflow for inputting the inspection data in the system, setting timelines and deadlines for data uploads or data entry, and identifying a person responsible. A data dictionary is an absolute necessity as it contains information vital to understanding the database, including what is in it, who has access, and where it is stored. Data should be stored in a safe and secure location, whether they are electronic or paper. Analyzing Data The primary analysis of inspection data is used to gather metrics for such things as the type of inspection, number of violations, type of violations, number of inspections conducted, and other counts of interest to a jurisdiction. These data are often reported to leadership, used for performance metrics, and used to determine sta€ needs. Using Data to Make Decisions Using data to drive decisions is tied strongly to the quality of the data collected, the accessibility of the data, and the data analyses conducted. Data-driven decisions based on inspection data have an impact on the facility owner as well as on regulatory practices. Real-time communication of inspection results increases the awareness of facilities of the results so they can remediate critical violations and other inspection outcomes promptly. For jurisdictions, inspection data can be used to decide how to allocate resources, optimize the quality of inspections, better manage poor performing establishments, and improve public health. These uses align with the CDC Data Modernization Initiative introduced in 2021 to advance core data and surveillance infrastructure across the federal and state public health landscape. This initiative is about not only technology but also putting the right people, processes, and policies in place to help solve problems before they happen and to reduce the harm caused by the problems that do happen. Sharing Data With Consumers Many of the best practices for data sharing among internal and external local, state, and national agencies also apply to sharing data with consumers. Data file formats should meet the same recommendations for nonproprietary, machine readable formats described in the previous section to support data sharing with consumers. This formatting is essential to link health departments to their communities, increase communication, and encourage transparency. Data sharing also enables the public to make informed decisions. Environmental health programs are gradually adopting innovative informatics and big data tools and strategies. This trend is being led by pioneering jurisdictions that are piecing together standards, policy frameworks, and business processes fundamental to the e€ective use of data analytics. These groundbreaking initiatives provide jurisdictions across the country with an enticing glimpse of the potential of technology and a sense of Inspection Availability for the Five Key Informants Jurisdiction Website for Inspections Comments and Details Georgia Department of Public Health Online portal Maryland Department of Health – Inspection data available on request Riverside County Department of Public Health Online portal Southern Nevada Health District permits-and-regulations/restaurant-inspections/ restaurant-inspection-search Online complaint system and mobile application Virginia Department of Health virginia/districts Inspections separated by health district TABLE 1 Common Challenges Discussed Among the Key Informants Inspection Processes Data Collection COVID-19 Pandemic • Distance of inspection facility from the office • Lack of standardization across inspectors and inspections • Potential data quality and timeliness issues due to manual data entry of paper inspections • Poor connectivity and other internet issues that increase the time to synchronize data after entry • Information system that is outdated or not user-friendly; difficulty in implementing a new system • Lack of standardization across data entry (e.g., electronic versus paper) • Loss in revenue (inspection and violation fees) • Inspectors being asked to enforce COVID-19 guidelines that are out of their scope • Loss of staff members • Inability to capture point of contact signatures on inspection reports (must utilize email responses) • COVID-19 guidance and training needs for inspectors TABLE 2