Although health systems have emergency preparedness plans to guide them through public health emergencies (PHE), the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many health systems and communities at a pace that strains even the best-laid plans. Patients with coronavirus symptoms overwhelmed many hospitals, doctors, nurses and other frontline caregivers, which often left providers with limited tools for sharing that information with local public health agencies. This, in turn, made it more difficult to coordinate community-wide responses and manage system capacity to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients. Given that we expect to be managing and caring for COVID-19 patients for some time, it is critical that health systems and public health agencies collaborate more effectively, using analytics to prepare for and meet fluctuating patient demands.
The most significant barrier hospitals face in reporting surveillance data to public health agencies is the agencies’ lack of capacity to receive data electronically.
A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) illustrates the critical need for “extreme interoperability” among providers and public health authorities during a PHE, especially during unprecedented events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers looked at barriers hospitals face in reporting surveillance data about health conditions to public health agencies, as well as how those barriers have impacted markets with high concentrations of COVID-19 patients. The researchers’ data pool consisted of 3,512 hospitals in 302 hospital referral regions (HRRs) in all 50 states.
According to an American Hospital Association survey of hospitals, that was analyzed in the JAMIA report, the most significant barrier hospitals face in reporting surveillance data to public health agencies is the agencies’ lack of capacity to receive data electronically.