Feds aim to digitize, overhaul public health data reporting: 5 details

The Trump administration has set its sights on updating the way local health departments report data to the government to leave paper records and faxes behind, according to a Politico report.

This initiative is separate from the federal government's overhaul of the way hospitals report COVID-19 data. In July, HHS mandated that hospitals skirt the CDC and report data directly to the agency. Since then, hospitals and state health departments said the switch placed technical burden on them, and some reverted to manual data entry. On Aug. 14, HHS CIO Jose Arrieta, who oversaw the rollout, resigned.

Here are five things to know about the new data overhaul initiative, called the Modernizing Public Health Reporting and Surveillance project:

1. The Trump administration aims to use money Congress gave to the CDC in coronavirus relief bills to update processes for local health departments to report data to the federal government. The effort would involve digitizing case reports.

2. There is already a nationwide public-private push to digitize public health department case reports, according to Politico, but HHS maintains its initiative would not duplicate those efforts.

3. HHS and the White House Coronavirus Task Force are giving state health departments federal liaisons to help fill information gaps and reduce errors.

4. The project underwent a soft launch last week with officials canvassing tech and public health leaders about pilot program participation. New initiatives could improve automated reporting, electronic case reporting and digitizing mobile COVID-19 test sites.

5. The multiyear initiative, led by a team with a strong tech background, aims to improve state and local health department IT and data quality. However, Politico reported government officials have concerns about whether the team spearheading this initiative has enough public health experience and savvy. An HHS official is quoted as saying, "[It's] so egotistical to think they can ride in and solve problems that public health people have been trying to solve for years."

More articles on data analytics:
COVID-19 data will go back to CDC when 'revolutionary new data system' is complete, Dr. Deborah Birx says
Texas COVID-19 data discrepancy blamed on Walgreens coding error
'We have no idea what's going on, really': Iowa COVID-19 system glitch wrongly lowered confirmed case rate

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