Paula Braun

Data-Driven Responses to the Drug Overdose Epidemic: Leveraging Open APIs and HL7® FHIR® to Make Mortality Electronic Data Systems More Connected, Adaptable, and Robust



In 2018, an Implementers’ Community was formed to help incubate new approaches to improve the timeliness, quality, and usability of mortality data. The community consists of interdisciplinary teams from vital records, forensic pathology, forensic toxicology, public health, and other IT and subject matter experts to who have committed to help design, test, and pilot standards-based ways of exchanging mortality data. The Implementers’ Community is focused on strengthening existing data systems using HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, open technologies, and other best practices for exchanging information. This approach builds off of work the work NCHS has led with the eVital Standards Initiative and the open technologies CDC has recently released at  

Given the complexity of the mortality data ecosystem, the community’s focus is not on “ripping and replacing” the underlying data systems, but rather on strengthening the “connective” tissue that binds mortality data providers and data requestors. The community’s main goal is to demonstrate ways that the process of reporting and analyzing mortality data can become more seamless, more secure, and more of an automated byproduct of existing workflows.

This presentation will provide an overview of the Implementers’ Community’s strategic goals and approaches. It will cover lessons learned and will include demonstrations of early-stage proof-of-concept projects that show a more automated exchange of information between medical examiner and coroner information systems, electronic death registration systems, toxicology lab information systems, and/or public health surveillance systems. Attendees will learn about methods states across the country are using to help combat the opioid epidemic.



Paula Braun is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and special advisor on Interoperability and Innovation at CDC.  Previously she has taught public health informatics in the Executive MPH program at Emory University and worked as a data scientist for Elder Research, a predictive analytics firm. Earlier in her career, Paula lived and worked two consecutive years at the US Embassies in Baghdad, Iraq and Kabul, Afghanistan. She began her career as a Presidential Management Fellow and was later selected by the American Association of University Women as a Selected Professions Fellow to pursue a graduate degree in analytics at the Institute for Advanced  Analytics at North Carolina State University. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, traveling, photography, hiking, biking, dancing and performing standup comedy.