A data-sharing program in Missouri, which includes the departments of Health and Senior Services, Mental Health, and Social Services, stands as one example of how effective data sharing allows for improved delivery of care and saving of taxpayer dollars.

Hospital use by clients of the state’s Medicaid program fell by 20 percent as of last year, and emergency room visits fell by 12 percent.

The decline in emergency room visits alone saves the state $8 million annually.

Data sharing accounts for much of the credit for these efficiencies.

The sharing of health data, in particular, often needs a legal framework that both allows access that meets individual departments’ needs and ensures compliance with privacy laws and regulations. Minneapolis utilizes a streamlined process that makes legal resources available specifically for these kinds of discussions. The city clerk’s office and representatives from individual departments work with the city’s legal counsel to vet data as necessary and set any legally mandated boundaries. This city’s open-data policy encourages all other types of data to be open automatically, limiting complex legal discussions to an as-needed basis.