“Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and mistrustful,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary of preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama. “It seems to cut the ability of agencies like the CDC to do their basic work.”
The change stemmed from a tense conference call several weeks ago between hospital executives and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. After Dr. Birx said hospitals were not adequately reporting her data, she called a working group of government and hospital officials who devised the new plan, according to Dr. Janis Orlowski, director of health care for the Association of Colleges. American Doctors, who participated in the group meetings.
While he said he understood Dr. Lurie’s concern, Dr. Orlowski said the administration had engaged in “verbal discussion” to make the data public, or at least give access to hospitals.
“We are comfortable with that as long as they continue to work with us, as long as they continue to make the information public and as long as we can continue to advise them and look at the data,” he said. calling the switch “a sincere effort to streamline and improve data collection.”
The change exposes large gaps in the government’s ability to collect and manage health data, an outdated system at best, experts say. CDC has been collecting coronavirus data through its National Health Safety Network, which expanded at the start of the pandemic to track Covid-19-specific hospital capacity and patient information.
In its new guide, Health and Human Services, it said that in the future, hospitals should report detailed information daily directly to the new centralized system, which is managed by TeleTracking, a Pittsburgh-based health data firm. However, if hospitals were already reporting such information to their states, they could continue to do so if they received a written statement saying the state would handle the reports.
Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, has raised questions about the TeleTracking contract, calling it a “multi-million dollar, non-competitive contract” for a “duplicate health data system.”