On July 15, 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield and United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Chief Information Officer Jose Arrieta provided an update for members of the media on HHS efforts to gather and disseminate real-time hospital data on COVID-19.
In short, rather than requiring hospitals to report Covid-19 data both directly to HHS and to the CDC’s National Health Care Safety Network they’ll only have to submit information to HHS, through a portal run by a tech contractor called TeleTracking.
This causes questions about how it would all work out and how seriously this new policy change will impact the Covid-19 response in the U.S.
Hospitals that are already struggling to keep up with the pandemic are being asked to learn a new data system. The transition is a tough one especially for smaller hospitals that don’t have as many resources.
Streams of data that the CDC was making available to researchers and the public have suddenly been cut off. There are concerns that information about the pandemic is no longer reliable.
The overall question is how this step is going to impact America’s COVID-19 response. The strategic change has become a political issue that might make it more difficult for hospitals and the public health sector to do the critical work that is so important right now.
The last thing needed during the peak of a pandemic is a change of direction that leaves hospitals and public health officials confused. Transitioning from one data system to another to report correct data is not an overnight process. It needs some time, effort, and infrastructure.
The completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of the data is crucial to get control over the pandemic. Data collection and reporting must be done in a trustworthy manner. Protecting data privacy is essential, and the ability to pull meaning from data can impact health outcomes.
Healthcare organizations need experts who can find things in the data that others can’t and who understand the data specific to healthcare.
Health Information Management (HIM) professionals provide a unique combination of industry expertise and analytical skills. They are able to both protect data and interpret it, making data available for those who need access but protected from those who don’t.
Information based on science is the only thing we should follow in fighting this virus. Ensuring the integrity of the data being released on the COVID-19 virus by hospitals is essential.
Without proper information, and proper guidelines based on accurate data, we are at a greater overall risk of not being able to slow down the pandemic. False numbers will impact important decisions like school re-openings, opening back our economy and getting back to what may be a new normal.
The public health data should be in the hands of public health experts.