APIC, SHEA Decry New COVID Data Collection Method

July 17, 2020

The Trump administration has decided that the COVID-19 data will no longer be reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through that agency’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

That hospitals will have to report their data on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (as reported by Infection Control Today® on Wednesday) spurred a blistering backlash from two of the largest associations representing infection preventionists today.

Connie Steed, MSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), said in a statement: “This overnight shift creates a lack of trust in the data at a time when we need that trust more than ever. Changing the data collection requirements and methodology in the middle of the pandemic will impact the quality and timeliness of critical public health data that we rely upon to drive our response and policies in our community. Further, there is concern that those responsible for analysis and interpretation of the data will not have adequate training in epidemiology.”

The Trump administration has decided that the COVID-19 data will no longer be reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through that agency’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). Hospitals will be required to report their COVID data to the HHS TeleTrack System, and the White House suggested that the National Guard can be called in to help in that reporting process.

“The nation’s infection preventionists and epidemiologists have been working with CDC for decades to create a widely trusted system for the reporting of infection data in hospitals,” Steed said in her statement. “The CDC’s NHSN has been utilized by state, local, and federal governments, communities and hospitals to drive improvement of healthcare outcomes and to reduce infection rates in hospitals.”

Steed and Hilary Babcock, MD, MPH, FISDA, FSHEA, a past president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, sent a letter yesterday to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, saying that “since the beginning of the pandemic, reporting requirements have constantly shifted, frequently requiring hospitals to change and collect new data. This has been a huge burden on healthcare facilities that are already overwhelmed with the pandemic response. Now at a time when there are increases in infections of COVID-19 and with only two days’ notice, the system for collecting data is upending the infection reporting process for COVID-19 and asking those who are stewards of the data to shift to an unknown mechanism and without support from the scientific community.”

Steed and Babcock write that this places further burden on healthcare employees who are already working long hours battling COVID-19 in their hospitals and communities. They also cited the numerous reporting mandates at the state level.

“To meet state mandates, some facilities will need to input data into their state system as well as this new system, creating an unnecessary burden among personnel important to the broader pandemic response,” write Steed and Babcock. “Failure to input that data into state systems that use the NHSN would render the data unhelpful for comparison purposes and could impact consumer transparency. It will also deny infection preventionists and epidemiologists the consistent data needed to plan our response for future pandemics.”