Day in the Life of COVID Reporting

Day in the Life of COVID Reporting

How many Americans hear or read about COVID-19 cases, deaths and trends each day? The numbers are distributed globally, nationally and regionally in vivid colorful and dynamic databases. The average American probably doesn’t think about where or how that data is collected.

The glamorous reports that are seen at the national level start with one person or team at each hospital across the nation. In addition to their current full-time jobs, these team members spend a good portion of every morning coordinating a massive collaboration of different disciplines, resources and technology that will culminate into a daily submission to a national database.

In California, COVID data reporting started with hospital supply shortages, number of beds and number of COVID patients. Currently, the reporting has evolved into 120 plus mandatory elements that are reported daily. Data definitions, sources, submission templates and requirements for federal, state and counties are not aligned. Even testing data was challenging in the beginning. Most of the testing was sent outside the organization initially with long turnaround times. This made it difficult to pull number of tests and their results electronically. Technologically savvy readers will understand the complexity of trying to automate this level of detail solely through electronic means.

The end game is to understand the disease, its prevalence, the resources needed to keep everyone safe and hopefully prevention

The collection, dissemination and use of good data for COVID testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a key part of the global response to the pandemic. Data that is used to make life and death decisions that affect entire populations needs to have clearly defined criteria, be as real-time as possible, easy to aggregate and analyze and be easily accessible from one source of truth. Easy right?

Even though data is critical, the priority needs to be the care and safety of our patients and staff. Multidisciplinary teams and incidents commands centers were deployed at every hospital in our system to review daily needs for key PPE, ventilators and associated supplies, critical medications, number of beds available versus occupied, ability to staff, employee health and resiliency of staff and physicians. This is the initial exercise that occurs every day before 9 a.m. 

From there, the system level team works to compile all data and validate for accuracy prior to submitting to the national database before noon. The system team stays abreast of the many definition changes and data needs to meet the reporting deadlines with frequent ongoing communication and education. The level of minutia and nuance makes it impossible to meet the needs at the accuracy level required with technology alone.

Even now as data is compared across the nation, let alone the globe, is the picture clear? How much noise is there from duplicate or serial testing, mix and match of testing technologies, variable time periods and evolving definitions? Data collected in this manner loses is biggest function – comparability and analysis. The end game is to understand the disease, its prevalence, the resources needed to keep everyone safe and hopefully prevention. COVID has been a huge catalyst for change. The problem cannot be entirely solved with current technology, but it has been encouraging to see what we have been able to accomplish during this pandemic. I am excited to see the continued response and innovation that has occurred over the past 10 months. Our efforts will ultimately improve care for COVID patients and beyond and I’m proud to be a part of this challenging journey.

Read Also

Healthcare Quality: Who is in charge and why?

Healthcare Quality: Who is in charge and why?

Steve Tierney MD, Sr. Medical Director Quality Improvement, South central Foundation
In the Age of COVID: The Acceleration of Technology

In the Age of COVID: The Acceleration of Technology

Lynn Gibson, VP/Chief Technology Officer, Christus Health
Revamping Workflow in Pharma Industry with Technology

Revamping Workflow in Pharma Industry with Technology

Bozidar Jovicevic, VP, Global Head of Digital Therapeutics, Sanofi [EPA:SAN]
Progressive Innovation Improving Patient Outcomes

Progressive Innovation Improving Patient Outcomes

Emanuele Degortes, Head of Patient, Innovation and Access Policy, Vifor Pharma