Lab Matters Fall 2020 | Page 25


Data to Knowledge to Action : COVID-19 Electronic Laboratory Reporting

by Rachel Shepherd , specialist , Informatics
In the face of unprecedented challenges and obstacles , all of public health has been forced to coalesce at a rapid rate to supply urgently needed COVID-19 information to the country . When the crisis began , there was no comprehensive view into nationwide testing , only fragmented snapshots that varied greatly by state . Thousands of individual entities — hospitals , nursing homes , pop-up testing sites , public health laboratories — were sending their aggregate testing reports to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), who had to try and compile all of this ad-hoc , non-standardized information into a single stream to comprehend . By the time that information was gathered and reported , it was already stale and the process began again .
A Better Way
Since April 2020 , APHL has been working with all 56 public health departments around the country ( 50 states and six territories ) to leverage and build upon existing technical infrastructure for each agency to report all of their state ’ s data . In an entirely new model of technical assistance , APHL is working with the entire country at once rather than providing support to a single cohort of approximately five jurisdictions at a time . The mission ? Enable all public health departments to electronically send their state ’ s data in a single stream to CDC : COVID-19 Electronic Laboratory Reporting ( CELR ).
Rather than all of the testing sites in a state sending data directly to CDC , they send to their state public health departments , who then compile , validate , de-duplicate , standardize and electronically send to CDC . CDC then reports the data to the Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ), as mandated . On weekly open calls with all public health agencies , terminologists , technical architects , and other subject matter experts ( SMEs ) are ready to guide states as they present their challenges and needs for onboarding .
In just five months , 42 jurisdictions have fully onboarded and are sending their state ’ s comprehensive data through the APHL Informatics Messaging Services ( AIMS ) platform — representing more than 78 % of all COVID-19 testing in the country . Under normal circumstances , it can easily take several months to onboard a single jurisdiction . Now , CDC receives the same format of reports from these jurisdictions , and , by receiving it electronically , is able to make use of the data immediately .
How is the Data Used ?
It is not an exaggeration to say that everyone in the country depends on CELR data . CDC publishes these data on its COVID-19 tracker , updating it daily with number of case counts and deaths , as well as number of tests conducted , community impact and other trends . This is essentially the nerve center for all of the information shared with the
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Coronavirus Disease ( COVID-19 ) Data Exchange on the AIMS Platform


Public Health Labs Clinical Labs
Public Health Agencies
APHL Informatics Messaging Services ( AIMS )
AIMS is a cloud based platform that serves public health by providing a secure place for entities to exchange critical information — laboratory test orders , results , surveillance data and more — quickly . AIMS receives , stores , transmits , validates , and transforms COVID-19 electronic messages so that data can inform and support important decision making .
Immunization Registries
My Symptoms
Potential COVID-19 Patients ( Self-Reporting App )
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Healthcare Providers
Device Manufacturers Medical Devices
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