On April 9, 2020 I published this blog
post which illustrated that, in the fight to contain the spread of
the COVID-19 pandemic, two very important things were becoming clear.
fighting pandemics depends on data that’s fast, complete, and accurate.
public health emergencies demand understanding people.
As a country,
gaps in person data left us exposed. We were losing valuable time:
- People were not being notified of
their test results because contact information is missing from drive
through test results
- Health departments were
overwhelmed; teams were making phone calls to track down missing data and
manually fix duplicate person records
- Commercial labs were missing as
much as 40% of demographic information
- Patients who tested positive were
not being notified
- Health systems struggled to
predict near-term demand due to incomplete data
As an expert in health care person data management, I was hopeful.
We can solve these problems; technology is readily available to address this
type of information sharing and states were hiring armies of contact tracers.
Days Later: Person Data Issues Slow Tracing
This weekend, my local newspaper, The Seattle Times, ran a
front-page article about delays and challenges in contact tracing efforts, due
to lack of accurate data. The struggle in Washington echoes conversations we’ve
had with health agencies around the country. By
its nature, contract tracing is data intensive and the sharing of data results
in quality issues including duplication. As a result, contact tracers are
unable to make contact within 48 hours of a positive test result, leaving people
who’ve tested positive and those they’ve been in contact with vulnerable. While public health teams are rapidly
implementing contact tracing systems and training teams, data quality is a
- Incomplete demographic information and contact
data prevents follow-up on new positive and negative test results. In
Washington, more than 40% of phone
numbers and other key information is missing, due in part to gaps in
reporting from laboratories and illegible handwriting, as reported in the
Seattle Times (June 14, 2020).
- Lab companies and
health systems often use different software to capture patient data, this
creates a challenge when trying to connect a COVID-19 lab result with a person’s
- Newly identified
contacts become duplicated because records contain limited information, this
prohibits records from matching up in the contact tracing application.
is Not a New Problem
organizations have struggled with this type of data exchange or
interoperability for decades. They’ve come to rely on a centralized master
person index or data management layer that improves the quality of person data
and enables interconnectivity between many different data sources.
Easier to Fix than you Might Think
Traditionally, this data management layer has been complex and time intensive to deploy, requiring data owners from across an organization agree on data definitions. Instead, rapidly deployable web services that address these exact data quality and matching problems are available. Working with one state department of health, Verato added phone numbers to 80% of contacts that were missing a phone number.
cloud-based data management solution for contact tracing, Verato offers straightforward
- Link public health data across systems and teams that suddenly need to be coordinated
- Connect person records with one another automatically, without manual effort
- Augment data for contact tracing with demographic information like phone number and address
ready to help with technology for faster contact tracing in fighting the spread
of COVID-19. To learn how we can help, contact us now.