The reporting of global coronavirus pandemic data from U.S. hospitals is going to be transferred back to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Health and Human Services had been handling the data, but once a new data system is installed at the CDC it will take over the responsibility amid delays and inconsistencies.
“CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE,” Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told hospital executives and government officials in Arkansas this week, per the report.
Under the old system, vital data such as the inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients were updated only once a week.
“We know that asking hospitals to manually enter information every day has to be an interim process to reduce the burden placed on the hospitals,” an HHS official wrote in an emailed statement, per the Journal.
The goal with the streamlined system will be updates multiple times a week, if not daily, without burdening hospitals struggling to manage the COVID-19 outbreaks in their area, the official wrote. U.S. Digital Service, a small agency which was started to improve HealthCare.gov, is being contracted by the Trump administration to “build a modernized automation process.”
“The changeover was very abrupt,” Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Thomas Talbot told the Journal. “We track across our region things like hospitalization numbers, and we’ve increasingly noticed it being more difficult for hospitals to meet daily deadlines. We still see hospitals that just have no data reported for the day.”
The data is vital for Dr. Birx to help coordinate personal protective equipment, testing, and supplies to the nation’s hot spots, per the report.
“We use that data for a lot of different reasons, and one is to forecast and predict onwards not just the space capacity but the right number of workers, the right numbers of supplies,” Dr. Talbot told the Journal. “It’s also not just for the patients but for the community: Are we safe to start and relax the interventions? Are we still a hot spot? We really need to have that data to see what’s going on.”
Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., told Newsmax TV‘s “The Chris Salcedo Show” there is a Trump administration effort to improve the data for all Americans.
“I’m pretty confident about the positivity rates, because those are laboratory tests,” Dr. Giroir, U.S. assistant secretary of health, told host Chris Salcedo of the issues with suspect COVID-19 data reported. “There is room to abuse the system, and I can’t quantify that.
“There are people within the administration now, my colleagues, who are really working on that. Because it is true – in an attempt to be fair to the American people and to support the hospital systems through the president’s leadership – the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is giving generous reimbursements to hospitals to care for COVID patients.
“That of course sets up an incentive to sort of say that they’re COVID patients when they may or may not be, or to attribute causes of death to them when they may or may not be. I can’t tell you how widespread it is, but we are concerned about it, and you’ll see some actions coming up soon to sort of tighten that, to make sure that a patient who is a suspected COVID patient really has proof of that.”
Giroir added the administration is worked to root out “fraudulent” reporting.
The existing system “not only alters the statistics, which it can,” he continued, “but it’s also really fraudulent against the system, and we don’t want to see that happen.
“We want to invest money into people who need the money, to hospitals that need the money. We don’t want to support fraudulent activity.”
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