Since the Trump administration asked hospitals to report its data directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Covid Tracking Project (CTP) has found the data to be “erratic,” “spotty and difficult to interpret.”
The change went into effect on July 15. CTP “compared the HHS’s counts of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients, published from July 20 to August 5, to the same metric compiled by The Covid Tracking Project from each state’s publicly available data.”
“The data have continued to be erratic: In some states, the HHS reports far more hospitalized patients than the state does, and in others, the two sets of data rise and fall at different rates,” CTP said in a post on their website.
CTP collects data from all 50 states and US territories. CNN utilizes testing and hospitalizations data from the organization.
The organization found that in six states — Maine, Arkansas, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Delaware — “HHS data is, on average, at least 150 percent higher than the data from these states’ dashboards.”
As a nation, from July 20-26, CTP found that “HHS reported an average of 24 percent more currently hospitalized patients nationwide than was reported by the states.”
HHS said it was taking over the hospitalization data because the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was posting the information too slowly. "Going forward, HHS and CDC will deliver more powerful insights on the coronavirus, powered by HHS Protect," said Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Michael Caputo said in July.
CTP noted that the switch “has likely been difficult for many hospitals.” HHS requires more data points to be reported and sometimes states have to fill-out two reports with the same data – one for the state and one for HHS.
Some background: Nearly three dozen public health advisers sent a July letter to the US government saying they are extremely concerned” and “troubled” about the change in how hospitals report Covid-19 data. The letter said hospitals were “scrambling” to keep up with the daily Covid-19 reporting requirements to HHS.
But CTP said reporting directly to HHS could be a good thing, “we expect hospitals to report more reliable information to the HHS than to their state health departments, or to report to only the HHS and not their state health departments, because the HHS-reported data is used to inform allocation of remdesivir, PPE, and other supplies.”
CTP will continue to track both sets of hospitalization data and remains optimistic that the data set will become more reliable over time. “Hospitalization data used to be a reliable metric demonstrating the stress Covid-19 is causing state health systems. Now, these data are spotty and difficult to interpret. We encourage states to be transparent about when they are encountering issues with hospital reporting and why,” CTP said.