Half of Hospitals Couldn’t Share Data with Public Health Agencies, Survey Says


September 7, 2021 4:15 pm

Half of privately owned U.S. hospitals lacked the ability to electronically share data with public health agencies in the run up to the Covid-19 pandemic, potentially hampering agencies’ response to the virus, according to newly released survey findings.

The hospitals in question were either unable to send the data or agencies were unable to receive it in 2018 and 2019. Forty percent of hospitals surveyed in 2019 said issues such as technology cost or complexity complicated sending the data.

The American Hospital Association data, which was published in an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology report, also showed interoperability worsened during the period studied due to differing vocabulary standards. Nearly three quarters of hospitals reported at least one challenge in sharing data with agencies.

“A majority of hospitals experienced public health reporting challenges that could impact public health agencies’ ability to monitor and respond to disease outbreaks,” the report said.

Rural and critical access hospitals surveyed were disproportionately likelier to face issues with pulling pertinent EHR information from records and confusion over where to send data, according to the report.

Background: The survey comes after the pandemic exposed the nation’s patchwork public health data system. States failed to control the virus due to outdated surveillance systems that prevented them from using real-time data in decision-making, a six-month POLITICO investigation found.

The investigation found that some hospitals didn’t report data to agencies or didn’t do so in a timely enough manner. The Trump administration attempted to address some of the problems by requiring hospitals to submit data to a private contractor as well as the CDC. But CDC officials said they were left out of the process and unable to verify the data.