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It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic, including the vaccine rollout, have tested the capacity of data reporting and immunization registration systems around the globe.  

“And yet, our [immunization information systems] have responded incredibly well, ensuring that data is broadly available to really inform the COVID-19 response,” said American Immunization Registry Association Policy and Planning Director Mary Beth Kurilo during an on-demand HIMSS21 Global Conference Digital session.  

Panelists from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States joined Kurilo for the session to discuss best practices and lessons learned.  

When the pandemic hit the U.K., accutane dry skin how long explained NHS England Interim Chief Data and Analytics Officer Ming Tang, government leaders were eager to come together to try and track, monitor and forecast COVID-19 activity. 

“We were able to bring together all of the data sources from hospitals, from public health, from test-and-trace,” said Tang, referring to the early days.

The team also considered logistics, such as personal protective equipment resources or vaccine storage equipment.   

“What’s really interesting is the data sharing has been massive for research,” Tang noted.

Researchers have been able to use the information to examine uptake and efficacy, for instance. “That would not have been possible if we hadn’t created the data store in the way that we did it,” she said.  

British Columbia is organized with different regional health authorities, said Alexandra Flatt, chief data governance and analytics officer at British Columbia Provincial Health Services.  

“The Provincial Health Services Authority led a key role in tracking, reporting and monitoring … in support of the five regional authorities,” Flatt said.  

The largest challenge, said Flatt, was the lack of readily available information. What was available was also fragmented.  

“There was a lot of manual reporting at first,” she added. “Canada has access to a lot of data. It was just disparate and in different places.”  

When it came to vaccines, Flatt said Canada’s low initial inventory actually put her team at an advantage. “It gave us time to plan,” she said.  

Mary Woinarowicz, immunization information system manager at the North Dakota Department of Health, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized early on the role regional immunization information systems could play.  

“Because that was called out fairly early in the overall pandemic, we had a lot of time to plan and prioritize where a lot of our efforts and changes needed to go,” said Woinarowicz.  

Knowing a vaccine was on the way, Woinarowicz, the team assessed its IIS for changes that needed to be made.

“We were constantly reevaluating our vaccination plan,” said Woinarowicz. “I had an entire COVID vaccination plan just related to our IIS and what we had available for functionality.”  

Woinarowicz said one goal was to lessen the data entry burden on providers as much as possible, by working closely with electronic health record reporting partners.   

“We wanted them to focus on getting vaccines into arms and not have to spend a lot of time worrying about reporting that information,” she said.  

Woinarowicz said North Dakota has also been able to share vaccination data with Minnesota and Montana, which helps make data more complete in all three states’ IIS.   

It’s also sharing data about Canadian truckers who get vaccinated as they pass through with those residents’ provincial government.  

A challenge across the U.S., she said, is with regard to federally operated facilities, such as Department of Veterans Affairs-run clinics, that do not share vaccination data down to the jurisdictional level.

“We do recognize that we have this sort of gap,” she said.  

Looking ahead, the panelists shared their hopes for the next public health emergency when it comes to data response.  

Woinarowicz said she would like to see more policy at the national level to better facilitate data sharing across state lines, along with strengthened immunization information systems in every state.  

Tang said she hoped to build more monitoring and forecasting capabilities and to partner with the public on how data is being used.  

Flatt emphasized the importance of modernizing infrastructure and technologies.

“COVID-19 really brought data and technology to the forefront,” she said. “We need to continue to leverage it and keep pushing it forward.”

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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