Public health and clinical medicine have different models of care. While little similarities exist between them, health IT may finally present a common thread.

The core principles of public health are focused on preventing and reducing the burden of disease on communities or entire populations. Public health is concerned with health and wellness; prevention of disease; reduction of morbidity and mortality; and identifying and isolating health threats to populations.

The most recent example of public health in action is the identification, control and prevention of the H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) pandemic. Public health professionals must identify and track each case of H1N1 to first, determine how the disease is spreading; second, ascertain how to isolate it; and third, strategize the development and deployment of a vaccine.

Clinical medicine is more concerned with individual health. A physician might receive a rationed number of H1N1 vaccines and disperse the vaccine as a prevention strategy to high-risk patients. Most of clinical medicine is focused on diagnosing and treating disease. If a patient presents to the physician with symptoms of H1N1, they do the blood testing to confirm the diagnosis, and if the results are positive, provide drug therapy to treat the H1N1 virus.

As you can see, it takes both public health professionals and clinical medicine practitioners to both PREVENT and TREAT disease. But because they have different models of care, it’s sometimes difficult for the two disciplines to play nicely together. However, looking at a case study of Rhode Island’s health IT developments, it seems technology in e-prescribing has brought them into accord.

Continue reading: E-Prescribing in Rhode Island: Connecting Public Health and Clinical Medicine