New York City restaurants serve a billion meals per year to customers. If you’re one of them, you may owe a debt of gratitude to Jian Liu, CIO of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and her IT team. She took then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s restaurant inspection letter-grade program and built a mobile app for hungry people on the go. The app lets users search for restaurants near their current location, or by neighborhood, restaurant name, type of cuisine, etc. The app shows the letter grade for each restaurant. If your favorite eatery has a “C” grade and you’re not too squeamish, you can click to see why. The idea is to protect public health and encourage restaurants to meet the city’s standards for cleanliness and safety by opening inspection records to the public. “You want to encourage them to do better,” said Liu. “It’s not all about penalties for violations.”

But the restaurant inspection app is only the tip of the iceberg. Among many other duties, Liu and her team are responsible for the city’s disease surveillance system. New York City has 97 diseases and conditions that must be reported to public health authorities by laboratories or providers. But different labs use different types of information systems, codes and standards that must be reconciled. Consolidating that information — data matching, de-duping and transformation — is a massive job, said Liu. And it doesn’t stop there. The department also coordinates with medical providers to help ensure that patients are properly treated.

In addition, the department is helping to ease medical providers away from paper-based records. “We subsidize their infrastructure and give them hardware and software, to help remove their traditional paper processes, charts and folders. Our mission is to assist them in adopting technology and methods that measurably improve the health of New Yorkers.”

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Wayne Hanson  |  Staff Writer and Editor of Digital Communities

Wayne E. Hanson has been a writer and editor with e.Republic since 1989, and has worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and is currently editor and writer for Digital Communities specializing in local government. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education. He self-published three books of fiction and lives in Sacramento with his wife, Jeannie.