Why states are having issues managing COVID-19 testing data

State governments and health departments decide how to manage COVID-19 testing, including collecting, organizing and reporting data. This in turn can create disparities among states and affect the country's pandemic response, according to MIT Technology Review.

These reporting differences can involve how data is organized geographically, such as by zip code, as well as how data is listed for case counts of confirmed or probable diagnoses. COVID-19 response efforts including contact tracing, surveillance and resource management for hospitals rely on real-time testing data, which is hard to access when 50 states report it in different ways, according to the report.

"It makes it quite difficult for us as epidemiologists to draw population-level conclusions when there's inconsistency in the data," Neal Goldstein, PhD, an epidemiologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told the publication. "It really impacts our ability to assess the true scope of the pandemic as it is impacting the U.S."

While some areas such as New York City have made their COVID-19 testing data freely available and regularly updated for anyone to access, other cities' and states' data efforts are not as advanced. In Colorado, hospitals and clinics can report COVID-19 information by fax, since some clinics do not have electronic systems to report the data through, according to the report.

If at-home testing platforms become widely available, there is also no guarantee results will be reported to the state because it will require individuals who take the tests to relay their results to the healthcare system.

Most public health and epidemiology experts agree that the ideal situation is to have the federal government lead a national effort to manage public health data, which would require funding measures and states allowing more oversight of their respective reporting programs, according to the report.

More articles on data analytics:
Pew to Congress: Patient matching flaws will disrupt COVID-19 contact tracing, vaccine distribution
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