Federal COVID-19 data-reporting change leaves states scrambling to adjust

The Missouri Hospital Association is among several state-based organizations working to develop new COVID-19 data-reporting methods and dashboards after the federal government changed its requirements.

HHS announced on July 10 that COVID-19 data should be reported directly to HHS instead of to the CDC, where hospitals typically report. The change went into effect July 15, and the hospital capacity data reported on the CDC's website was removed briefly. The CDC restored the data on July 17, but said it will no longer update that data.

Several states depended on the CDC's COVID-19 hospital capacity data to update their own coronavirus-tracking dashboards and are now trying to quickly develop alternate ways of gathering and reporting that data. Missouri lost access to vital information about hospital capacity as the number of hospitalizations are spiking across the state.

Dave Dillon, a spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the federal government's reporting change is "a major disruption" in a report from KBIA, a local public radio service and NPR affiliate. The state now has "very limited situational awareness" to respond to the needs of individuals with COVID-19, Mr. Dillon said.

While the CDC director and HHS CIO said in a joint media briefing that state public health officials will still have access to the data reported to HHS, they did not say whether the information would still be publicly posted.

Mr. Dillon said the Missouri Hospital Association does not have access to the new HHS system, and the system is different from the CDC's.

"The new datasets for reporting are not identical, and in several cases, are ill-defined," he said in the report. "That has complicated hospitals' efforts."

The Missouri Hospital Association is collecting interim hospital capacity data, including the availability of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators for the state. It now has a new reporting system for hospitals and aims to produce weekly reports.

Maine is another state working to reestablish the reporting system for its 36 hospitals to send information daily, according to local ABC affiliate WMTW. The Maine Hospital Association said the change has been an "administrative headache" for the state's hospitals.

Idaho is in a similar situation, unable to update the state's COVID-19 dashboards without the CDC data. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said it is reviewing methods for a new reporting process and department spokesperson Niki Forbing-Orr told the Idaho Statesman that the change would "have a short-term impact on our awareness of the number of people in hospitals, in the ICU and on ventilators."

More articles on data analytics:
'No one is taking access or data away from CDC': CDC director, HHS CIO explain COVID-19 data transfer decision
University of California Health unified dataset to speed up COVID-19 research: 4 details
'A really expensive WebMD': Utah's $6M contact tracing app falls short of expectations

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