Bridging Data Gaps in COVID-19 Reporting and Tracking

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the Delta variant is the most dominant COVID-19 strain. Eighteen months into the pandemic, there are at least twenty states that are still having difficulties filling the data gaps in reporting and tracking information. States track diseases in different ways, and most of the systems they use do not talk to each other making it difficult to load case data efficiently. Additionally, labs in some states are delivering results by mail or fax (yes fax), delaying the time for valuable, accurate information for treatment and diagnosis.

According to a recent article in Politico, Louisiana’s state health department was struggling with a major issue as the Delta variant arrived: getting testing labs to report results electronically, in a format the Louisiana government systems could synthesize. This compounded the time it required to report actual cases, limiting the real-time information necessary to curb community spread. Catherine O’Neal, Chief Medical Officer at Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge stated, “local hospitals like Our Lady of the Lake were laboring to get a hold of real-time data, as there was not a function in the EPIC EHR that allowed physicians to easily track breakthrough infections.” O’Neal stated, “we do the manual entry through our infection control and prevention department which reviews every case anyway. We added that to their list of things to do.”

Beginning June 10th, reporting fields for that data related to COVID-19 became optional, per the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Lee Mendoza, Health Informatics Director at the Louisiana health department, told Politico, “when you look at the amount of data that we’re having to process … it’s like building a plane as it flies.” The surges associated with the Delta variant coupled with the lack of improvements in reporting takes many states back to when the pandemic first began in 2020.

Not every health department has access to its state’s vaccination records, and other health departments find it difficult to match immunization registries with hospital data. It’s sometimes hard to believe that in 2021 we are encountering these technology challenges. The gaps underscore the need for standardizing data collection and reporting protocols in the context of rapidly emerging infectious diseases. The inconsistency in how states collect and report such information provides an inaccurate snapshot of disease progression, tracking, and prevention.

How Has Automation Helped?

Automation helps to standardize data. It’s always accurate, can be based on a set of rules, and can be easily scaled to quickly meet standardization of practices without the common need to train hundreds of employees, work with vendors to implement updates to systems, or add extra staff. While the world is challenged to meet the ongoing demands of the pandemic, automation eliminates many of the time-consuming manual processes in hospitals and provider organizations, allowing physicians and clinicians to focus on patients in need. Boston WorkStation reduced the time and roadblocks associated with testing and management processes by compiling lists of patient populations and vaccine distribution schedules, and automating the information needed for reporting, saving valuable time. When physicians receive information faster, they are able to develop lifesaving treatment plans and inhibit the spread of disease.

Much of the process automation was a direct result of the latest rules and regulations. By automating claims status checks, payment information, vaccine registrations, follow-up, and claims management tools, time constraints were minimized and dollars-in-the-door were maximized.

Boston WorkStation’s COVID-19 projects have included the following:

  • Compiled lists of patient populations for community outreach.
  • Entered lab orders and routed results to physicians and patients.
  • Connected information from kiosks and portal technology.
  • Reported COVID-19 data to state and federal agencies.
  • Eliminated up to 20 manual steps in the uninsured patient claims process via the HRSA web portal.
  • Eliminated the need for additional FTEs to complete telehealth tasks.
  • Managed supply chain and materials management inventories.
  • Enabled faster onboarding of new employees.
  • And so much more…

The CDC has begun to dole out millions of dollars to help states better manage their staffing and data collection during a pandemic. In the meantime, automation has helped “bridge the gaps” in data collection and reporting, empowering people to focus on patient care, and reducing the burnout and stress associated with a manual data entry process.

Why Boston Software Systems?

As we continue the intense scientific debate about who needs booster doses and when, automation offers public health a boost by reducing the need for manual processes and improving the sharing of information despite data silos. At Boston Software Systems, we have 30+ years of successful projects under our belt. KLAS gave Boston Software Systems solid A’s in company culture, loyalty, operations, and value. We keep our promises and state our truths as to what our services can and cannot accomplish. In the process, we create happy customers, 100% of whom would purchase from us again.

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