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COVID-19 and the Need for a National Health Information Technology Infrastructure

Educational Objective
To understand the consideration for a National health Information Technology Infrastructure in managing COVID-19 and future diseases
1 Credit CME

The need for timely, accurate, and reliable data about the health of the US population has never been greater. Critical questions include the following: (1) how many individuals test positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and how many are affected by the disease it causes—novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a given geographic area; (2) what are the age and race of these individuals; (3) how many people sought care at a health care facility; (4) how many were hospitalized; (5) within individual hospitals, how many patients required intensive care, received ventilator support, or died; and (6) what was the length of stay in the hospital and in the intensive care unit for patients who survived and for those who died. In an attempt to answer some of these questions, on March 29, 2020, Vice President Mike Pence requested all hospitals to email key COVID-19 testing data to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).1 The National Healthcare Safety Network, an infection-tracking system of the CDC, was tasked with coordinating additional data collection through a new web-based COVID-19 module. Because reporting is optional and partial reporting is allowed, it is unclear how many elements of the requested information are actually being collected and how they will be used. Although the US is one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world and one that spends the most money on health care, this approach illustrates the need for more effective solutions for gathering COVID-19 data at a national level.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Dean F. Sittig, PhD, UT-Memorial Hermann Center for Healthcare Quality & Safety, 6410 Fannin St, UTPB 1100.43, Houston, TX 77030 (dean.f.sittig@uth.tmc.edu).

Published Online: May 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.7239

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Sittig reports personal fees from health information technology consulting and legal expert consulting outside the submitted work. Dr Singh reports funding from the Houston Veterans Administration (VA) Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness, and Safety (CIN13-413), the VA HSR&D Service (CRE17-127; Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers USA 14-274), the VA National Center for Patient Safety, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (RO1HS27363), and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the US government.

References
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2.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.  Information for health: a strategy for building the national health information infrastructure. Published November 28, 2016. Accessed April 14, 2020. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/information-health-strategy-building-national-health-information-infrastructure
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