HHS COVID-19 data often diverges with state data: report

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An investigative report in Science called HHS Protect COVID-19 data into question after finding significant gaps between the federal and state data.

HHS Protect tracks COVID-19 data including hospital and ICU bed capacity across the U.S. The investigation found HHS data was often different from state-level data as well as information gathered by health systems. One example cited hospitalization data for Nov. 16; HHS Protect said 71 percent of hospital beds were filled, but another federal data system from the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response said 91 percent of the state's beds were filled.

HHS uses its data to make decisions about supply distribution, and the report notes some small hospitals in Wisconsin are experiencing supply shortages. HHS officials told Science its data system has made improvements in the past two months for more reliable results.

The report also noted HHS Protect data varied 15 percent to 30 percent for the number of COVID-19 inpatients in Alabama when compared with state health department data, potentially due to reporting system delays. One official told Science state data is up to 20 percent lower because hospitals face losing Medicare funding for failing to report to HHS, but no similar penalties exist for not reporting data to the state.

However, in some cases HHS Protect data shows more inpatients with COVID-19 than state data, according to the report, and 30 states had more than 20 percent difference in the state and federal data.


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