“Among the things Dr. Walensky shared in his letter are five big commitments that will push us to work more collaboratively as we shift from a ‘my data’ to ‘our data’ mindset,” reads -on in the email.
The email is the first formal indication that the CDC is taking further action to address data gaps that have hampered the agency’s response to Covid-19. And it comes amid calls from lawmakers and public health officials for the agency to find ways to ensure more accurate data to respond to the next pandemic — information that can easily be shared between hospitals, departments state health and the federal government.
In an interview with POLITICO before the email was sent, Jernigan said the modernization effort will include unifying state and federal public health data systems, ensuring the CDC relies on up-to-date information that can be used in real time. , and help states hire staff to work on data collection and analysis.
Over the past two years, the CDC has struggled to keep up with the rapid spread of the virus largely due to the country’s outdated and aggregated public health data infrastructure. The agency depends on states to collect data from lab reports and hospital records, which are then submitted to the CDC. But state health departments have been underfunded, and the methods they use to study outbreaks such as Covid-19 are patchwork and outdated.
States rely on multiple sources to collect public health data, including through contact tracing, lab reports, and individual reports. Some still rely on laboratories to fax results while others work with systems where duplicate positive entries cannot be eliminated.
“The data issues are real,” former CDC director Jeffrey Koplan said Wednesday during a panel hosted by Yale University. “It is truly inconceivable that we are unable to achieve common measures from state to state at the federal level. It undermines what we are trying to do and it needs to be fixed.
The CDC is working on solutions designed to help states better access all the information they receive faster and more holistically.
Jernigan compared how local health departments could potentially access data to Travelocity, a system that not only allows users to book a flight, but is able to pull information from various sources to suggest a car rental, a hotel and things to do at your destination.
A similar cloud-based framework for public health information could one day enable local health workers to quickly analyze data and understand what is happening in their communities rather than trying to plug data into old systems.
“Now you can say, ‘I see you have this person who was HIV-positive and died, and they actually live in an area with a high social vulnerability index, and they’re in a service area by a federally qualified health center and we have money for public health,” Jernigan said. “Now you can have that data and make it work for you, rather than what’s happening is i.e. people have to work to get the data People spend 80% of their time gathering information, picking up a fax and putting it into one of their systems.
The CDC and public health officials across the country lobbied Congress for Continued money for data modernization. While lawmakers approved funding to help improve the CDC’s data methods, it hasn’t been enough to change how the agency collects and analyzes data in public health emergencies, dozens have said. of state officials to POLITICO.
Early in the pandemic, the Trump administration tried to adapt the federal government’s public health data capabilities to fill some long-standing gaps. The White House has called on the Department of Health and Human Services to take over some of the US data collection on Covid-19. Department officials created HHS Protect — a system that required hospitals to submit information through TeleTracking, a private contractor, rather than through the CDC. The system is meant to give US officials a better view of how infectious diseases like Covid-19 can strain hospital resources. The CDC recently took over the project as part of its efforts to improve data collection and analysis.
To better understand how Omicron and its subvariant impact transmission and severe disease, the CDC is reassessing Covid-19 hospitalizations to decipher how many people are seeking care for the virus and how many tested positive upon arrival. .
Jernigan said the CDC is dedicating $3 billion to help state public health departments recruit new employees and train those who can make local data systems work better. Louisiana state health officials have hired more staff to work on the state’s electronic lab reporting program, ensuring that test results that reach the state’s office of health are there. by computer, rather than by fax or e-mail, and that the results are accurate.