Read this deep dive about why U.S. public health information systems could not handle COVID-19

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U.S. public health information systems are outdated, underfunded, and unable to communicate with each other. These problems left states unable to monitor the spread of COVID-19, and during the upswings, many local health departments stopped tracking contacts. Politico.

An in-depth examination of the gaps in public health surveillance shows disruptions at almost every stage of the process. Laboratories that performed COVID-19 tests did not report data directly to health departments via electronic systems by fax or e-mail. Health departments monitored different systems to monitor different outbreaks and relied on programs that required laborious manual feeding. They could not get information about the cases through the system in time to address the cases.

The challenges worsened during the rise in COVID-19, Politico‘s the study showed:

In Alabama, information systems crashed during the waves when the system was hit by incidents. In Vermont, more than 1,300 Covid-19 lab results in December 2020 were received by fax, email, or snail mail — not through the state’s electronic reporting system. In Washington state, laboratories reported Covid-19 results up to 10 days late during peak hours. In Wyoming, the state health department had to “copy” thousands of records into its electronic system each month to ensure that positive results were counted only once.

State delays meant inconsistent or delayed data for disease control and prevention centers. The federal agency had to build a program to obtain information from state information websites because they did not receive it from officials.

Poor control systems were one of the reasons the United States was unable to control the spread of COVID-19. “Because we didn’t have the kind of centralized intelligence to identify, test, and perform rapid control, the United States missed our opportunity to curb the virus,” Charity Dean, a former deputy director of the California Department of Public Health, said. Politico.

Investment in the CARES law can help modernize systems, but authorities say it is not enough. The problems that plagued health departments last year are still a problem, officials are exhausted and the delta wave makes it difficult to manage things – even less remedy.

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