Biden admin tweaking COVID-19 data reporting

The Biden administration is aiming to shift COVID-19 reporting practices for hospitals throughout the country, reports said this week.

According to Politico’s Erin Banco, scientists and data specialists from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have formed a task force to get a more accurate sense of COVID-19’s impact.  

The group, said Banco’s sources, will ask facilities to separate patients who seek care because of COVID-19 from those who test positive while in the hospital for other reasons.  

Any subsequent shifts in hospitalization rates may lead to adjusted policies and public health measures.  

However, experts told Banco that the change will likely be a big ask.  

“You need a panel of experts to review the cases to adjudicate if a hospitalization is for a person who came in for COVID or with COVID,” said Eric Topol, who served as an advisory board member for the COVID Tracking Project.  

“It’s not something that is coded in the chart. A lot of people will say an individual came in with COVID, but it was actually the COVID that exacerbated the lung or heart disease,” Topol said.  

It is also unclear, at this point, whether hospitals could use existing data reporting methods or whether a new one will have to be spun up.

Data tracking woes have shadowed COVID-19 responses since the pandemic began, with the Trump administration asking hospitals in summer 2020 to begin reporting dozens of elements to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with just a few days’ notice.  

The difficulties have emphasized the importance of interoperability and connectivity throughout the country, as National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi put it this past year.  

“The pandemic, though tragic and frustrating and still very much with us, has also done us the service of pressure testing our IT infrastructure in ways unimaginable just 18 months ago,” Tripathi said.​​  

Administration’s struggles with science leadership  

Meanwhile, Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, resigned this week in the wake of an internal investigation concerning his behavior toward subordinates.  

Lander, according to Politico‘s Alex Thompson, was accused of bullying and demeaning staff members, violating the White House’s “Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy.”

As reported by Thompson, Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, described “credible evidence” in a 20-minute recorded briefing that Lander had spoken “harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues.”   

“The investigation found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff,” Peele continued, according to Thompson.  

Lander’s resignation on Monday evening sparked fears among the scientific community of hampering momentum for Biden’s research initiatives.  

As Lev Facher reported for STAT, some researchers expressed concerns around the momentum of various projects, particularly the proposed establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).  

The Lander incident also comes amidst continued turmoil regarding Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf.  

Once thought of as a relatively popular choice – especially considering his previous stint as FDA head under President Barack Obama – Califf has faced criticism from both sides of the aisle that has stalled his Senate approval process.  

“If he can’t get confirmed it bodes poorly for almost anyone else who could be nominated,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who served as acting FDA commissioner twice, told the Associated Press. “What you’re seeing here is a lot of extraneous issues inserting themselves into the confirmation process and the same thing would happen to virtually anyone else nominated.”  

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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