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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in the U.S. public health infrastructure and the inconsistencies in data received by state and local health departments.

These deficiencies have resulted in an over-reliance on faxes and the submission of missing data, which has slowed the ability of public health officials to identify hotspots and inform reopening decisions.

“Today, many public health agencies still receive information like lab reports via faxes or phone calls; those require manual data entry, which means slower response times,” said Molly Murray, senior manager with the health information technology project at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Murray, who will speak on the topic Friday at HIMSS21, how to buy bystolic coupon without prescription said even when that information is shared electronically, however, it is often missing critical components.

She pointed out that even before COVID-19, research showed that individuals’ phone numbers were missing over 40% of the time in reports of lab results, meaning public health officials were left to track down the information they needed to conduct contact tracing.

Even now, many COVID-19 vaccine reports lack data on individuals’ race and ethnicity – the CDC reported having that information in 58% of the reports they received – which makes it harder to understand how the virus is affecting different communities and allocate resources accordingly.

“States should work with hospitals, providers, and labs to set up electronic connections that meet national data standards, such as LOINC or HL7’s implementation guides,” she advised. “This would help ensure that public health agencies receive more complete data in a timely manner.”

Murray said these connections could also reduce provider and hospital burdens, since data would be sent automatically based on certain criteria rather than requiring provider input.

She noted for case reporting specifically, eCR Now is an example of a reporting solution that works with all EHRs to implement electronic case reporting for COVID-19.

“Ideally, this could be expanded to cover all reportable conditions, even outside of the current pandemic,” she said.

When it comes to potential federal policy solutions to improve data reporting and exchange, she said the ONC can require that all EHRs be able to electronically share data for each of the four use cases, using their EHR certification program as the mechanism for this change.

“That requirement can also include adherence to existing national standards, to ensure all of the needed data elements are shared in a consistent manner; for example, phone numbers should be formatted in a single manner so all systems can accept and integrate the data easily,” Murray said.

Molly Murray and her colleague Ashley Ashworth will share more insights in their session, “Policies to Improve Public Health Data Exchange.” It’s scheduled for Friday, August 13, from noon-1 p.m. in Venetian Murano 3201.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: [email protected]
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

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