As Coronavirus Strikes, Crucial Data In Electronic Health Records Hard To Harvest

By Kaiser Health News

Over the past decade, federal officials have made efforts to move from paper to electronic health records (“EHRs”), expecting to harness volumes of medical data to reveal which treatments work best. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic pooling data from the digital records systems in thousands of hospitals has proved a technical obstacle. This is largely because software built by rival technology firms often cannot retrieve and share information to help doctors judge which coronavirus treatments are helping patients recover. Some health systems are beginning to draw on EHR data to spot coronavirus trends and beneficial treatments, but most health organizations around the country are not able to readily do so. One reason is medical data has been hard to tease out because much of it resides in electronic “silos,” which government officials have not required technology companies to open up and eliminate.

Several of the top EHR manufacturers have joined the data-sharing coalition, which is pledging to at least partially fill the information void. The group has access to COVID data from about two dozen health systems and is expecting to add more.

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