HHS task force – Public health’s next shot at fixing its data problem

“COVID’S DATA WAKE-UP CALL: It was supposed to be simple: Labs reporting Covid-19 test results at the start of the pandemic were to use just one of two codes. Instead, some hospitals got 200.”

“That digital clutter from human coding errors required a huge investment of time and staff to clean up. It was just one example of the chaos enveloping the nation, as officials, hospitals, and doctors looked for a clear picture of what was going on. Often they were buried underneath faxes, which were slow to arrive and missing critical information.”

“Now the federal government — pushed by public health and techies — is considering how to overhaul its rickety health IT systems. More digital means of communication would replace systems that left states relying on fax machines and paper records for critical tasks like contact tracing. Some states even had to call up their National Guard to manually enter data. Going digital, though, means prodding labs, hospitals and providers to use standardized tech systems. And in U.S. health systems, public or private, that hasn’t always been quick or easy.”

“Micky Tripathi, the leader of HHS’s health information technology office, has convened a task force to make recommendations. One idea under consideration is having the federal government and the states share a computing infrastructure, allowing public health departments to more easily share data and novel software programs.”

“‘The pandemic exposed the boulders underneath the water,’ Tripathi told Future Pulse. ‘We can now understand where to invest.'”

“The modernization efforts actually predate Covid, starting in earnest when congressional appropriators first secured money for updating public health technology in 2019. But the pandemic exposed critical shortcomings, prompting Congress to send additional tranches of health tech dollars in relief packages and annual spending bills. As much as $100 million more is contained in a House health spending bill for fiscal 2022 soon headed to the floor…” Read the full article here.

Source: Public health’s next shot at fixing its data problem – By Darius Tahir, July 21, 2021. POLITICO.

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