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A key building block for any COVID-19 response: Data integration

In the last few months we have all found ourselves in unchartered territory, facing a global threat together, yet apart. Healthcare interoperability—defined as the collection, distribution and exchange of data—has been placed squarely in the center of the global pandemic response.

Around the world, Ministries of Health, social services, information, development planning and finance are working together to protect their populations from the threat and reality of COVID-19. In the U.S., states are working in a similar fashion to address needs at a regional level.

No matter where your organization is in the healthcare interoperability journey, now is the time to examine your data footprint and take action to adapt to situations.

Joining the battle at the point of need

We have seen heroic efforts across the globe as healthcare workers find themselves lending their talents in settings where they may not have otherwise worked. It’s more important now than ever to integrate data from disparate clinical settings: Hospitals, local clinics, urgent care, general and specialist practices in both the private and public sectors. In this battle, hospitals are no longer the gladiator in the data ring. Data from ambulatory care, community housing, nursing homes, college campus clinics and prisons are every bit as important.

Life as we know it has changed. We now keep an eye on daily test result summaries while we track the spread of this virus. As such, lab result data integration is a key building block for any COVID-19 response.

What does this integration look like?

Globally, some countries have chosen to implement national data repositories using standards-based data exchange that provide access to test results in near real time. Others have augmented existing disease surveillance systems to include test metrics for this novel coronavirus. In the U.S., commercial clinical laboratories have come alongside the overwhelmed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to process COVID-19 tests. Integration of these lab feeds to a clinical data repository would ensure that those test results are clearly communicated, ideally to providers in all clinical settings, in near real time at the point of care.

It’s important to keep in mind that the need doesn’t stop with COVID-19 testing. Tracking and monitoring secondary illness after recovery is fast becoming standard practice. Soon, antibody tests will inform the capacity to relax restrictions by region. Because so much about this virus is unknown, the more data points collected, the better.

Even as countries are starting to ease restrictions and allow more freedom of movement, this is the time to take an honest look at the data landscape in your region. Some questions to ask:

  • How connected is your healthcare community?
  • How well does it extend to confined community settings?
  • How quickly is data distributed across the healthcare continuum?

Next, prioritize any data gaps, taking into consideration all communities, then put together an integration strategy that meets the needs of the region.

There is much we don’t know about COVID-19. Investing the time and effort to integrate systems now will pay big dividends down the road, providing analytic data insights to the clinical research, bio tech, pharmaceutical and life science communities.

Interoperability facilitates a united, informed, data-driven response no matter how far apart we are.

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