Barriers to hospital electronic public health reporting and implications for the COVID-19 pandemic

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2020 Aug 1;27(8):1306-1309. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocaa112.


We sought to identify barriers to hospital reporting of electronic surveillance data to local, state, and federal public health agencies and the impact on areas projected to be overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using 2018 American Hospital Association data, we identified barriers to surveillance data reporting and combined this with data on the projected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospital capacity at the hospital referral region level. Our results find the most common barrier was public health agencies lacked the capacity to electronically receive data, with 41.2% of all hospitals reporting it. We also identified 31 hospital referral regions in the top quartile of projected bed capacity needed for COVID-19 patients in which over half of hospitals in the area reported that the relevant public health agency was unable to receive electronic data. Public health agencies' inability to receive electronic data is the most prominent hospital-reported barrier to effective syndromic surveillance. This reflects the policy commitment of investing in information technology for hospitals without a concomitant investment in IT infrastructure for state and local public health agencies.

Keywords: COVID-19; electronic health records; pandemic; public health; syndromic surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Public Health / methods
  • SARS-CoV-2