In a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Democrat House Representatives are asking for a review of the Trump administration’s recent order to have hospital data on coronavirus be reported to a private contractor through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rather than through the CDC.

“Not only have HHS’s actions seemingly sidelined the nation’s top public health officials, but they have also reportedly led to unnecessary confusion, additional burden on critical COVID-19 response professionals, and the loss of timely and reliable data, all in the midst of the pandemic when people’s lives are at stake,” the Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., wrote to GAO.

The Representatives cite a number of different reporting mechanisms that have been put in place since the start of the pandemic, including the requirement for hospitals to report information through the CDC’s new National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) COVID-19 hospital module to only have HHS Secretary Alex Azar introduce a new third-party reporting mechanism through TeleTracking Technologies the very next week.

“In briefings with Committee staff, experts have also suggested that the new data reporting process may erode the quality of data, in part because the system is overly cumbersome and was developed without input from end-users, including public health experts,” the Representatives wrote.

The Representatives are asking that GAO review three main areas as it relates to information and data being available in a timely manner:

  • The benefits and challenges of changes to the COVID-19 hospital capacity reporting guidance and systems to the nation’s pandemic response, including to the healthcare system, public health stakeholders, patient care, and access to treatment.
  • How the Trump administration monitored, tracked, and aggregated data collected through all the various mechanisms put in place including NHSN, TeleTracking, state-based reporting, and the HHS Protect platform. Also, how the administration ensured quality control, utility, and transparency of collected data.
  • Determine the timeline and process for decisions leading to “removing NHSN as a reporting option and limiting future reporting options to TeleTracking and authorized state-based reporting in July 2020.”
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.