Over the primary three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US suffered over twice the deaths per capita as Canada — over 600,000 potentially avoidable deaths. Specialists agree that this was a hard-won victory of Canada’s public well being response. Whereas political and demographic realities had been a significant factor, an unsung hero is the information modernization efforts that helped Canada observe and comprise the sudden rise in infections and meet the demand for public well being companies.
On the subject of public well being emergencies, Canadian authorities have lengthy been dedicated to studying from crises, making use of know-how and remodeling techniques to place each state and federal companies for fulfillment when the following problem arrives. Even inside imperfect political realities, public well being organizations world wide can be taught and emulate Canada’s response by means of knowledge modernization, doubtlessly saving hundreds of thousands of lives within the subsequent public well being emergency.
A proactive method to the specter of a worldwide well being disaster
After the SARS outbreak in 2003, federal and provincial governments in Canada acknowledged that their present public well being techniques and IT had been insufficient. Canadian authorities proactively labored with IBM to develop an answer generally known as IBM Panorama, an end-to-end public well being illness surveillance and immunization system. This answer would later be key to Canadian public well being companies’ response to COVID-19.
In the meantime, throughout the US, public well being officers continued to make use of paper-based techniques that may later fail to maintain up with the explosive unfold of COVID-19.
Within the years following the SARS outbreak, the enterprise of public well being largely returned to steady-state focus. The day-to-day actions of public well being companies consisted primarily of coping with conventional vaccines, ailments and situations.
Throughout this era, Panorama helped Canadian authorities cope with a variety of public well being features, together with case investigation and outbreak administration, in addition to immunization and vaccine inventory management.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, well being companies had been instantly thrown into the highlight. Immediately, public well being companies needed to cope with:
- A novel illness for which no requirements (resembling case definitions) existed
- A quickly evolving illness the place variants, indicators and signs, and interventions modified shortly
- Excessive case volumes and in depth contact tracing, which necessitated employment of latest public well being staff to satisfy demand (with restricted coaching accessible)
- New vaccines and evolving protocols, resembling mixing and matching doses with completely different vaccines
- The necessity to talk well being dangers to the general public primarily based on quickly creating knowledge and unsure interpretations
Although each the US and Canada confronted unprecedented challenges throughout this time, the Canadian provinces that had been geared up with Panorama had been higher ready to reply to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not like many US counterparts, they’d a robust enterprise-grade answer that was particularly designed for public well being. This answer had the potential to handle giant scale immunization occasions and illness surveillance.
Given world journey and local weather change, it’s cheap to anticipate that one other pandemic (and the issues listed above) may very well be proper across the nook.
This time, the US can be taught from the experiences and preparedness of Canada’s public well being companies. A profitable public well being response to a future pandemic will depend on accumulating and managing vital knowledge, investing in sensible, succesful and versatile knowledge modernization techniques, and making ready folks with the correct data and expertise.
Lesson 1: Use an information mannequin constructed for public well being.
Canadian provinces used a illness surveillance answer that includes a person-centered public well being knowledge mannequin, which meant it captured the requisite info wanted for public well being professionals to forecast and determine rising tendencies and outbreaks (in addition to analyze interventions and report back to stakeholders). US public well being companies would profit from selecting illness surveillance options that include a confirmed, public well being knowledge mannequin that provides related terminology, relationships and fashions.
Lesson 2: Make key selections with high-quality knowledge.
Excessive-quality knowledge is the bedrock of any public well being response. US public well being companies ought to search options that ingest knowledge in a number of codecs and have built-in processes for knowledge cleaning to take care of the integrity of information. Knowledge silos usually happen when knowledge is just not shared or accessible, resulting in workarounds and incomplete info. It’s essential to ascertain knowledge sharing agreements upfront of an emergency.
Lesson 3: Deal with knowledge volumes with system integration.
Each Canadian and US public well being companies had been overwhelmed by big volumes of information throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. US companies invested emergency COVID-19 funding into new case administration and call coaching options. Nevertheless, these had been usually stand-alone options that didn’t tackle the underlying problems with siloed, incomplete or duplicative knowledge.
Canada used built-in public well being info techniques, like Panorama, for seamless knowledge ingestion, cleaning and import processing. Via techniques integration through open APIs and different technique of integrating knowledge into affected person well being information, this served as the one supply of reality for all publicity, case investigation, contact tracing, outbreak administration and case administration info for every resident.
Lesson 4: Undertake a cloud-native structure to make sure elastic scalability.
Lots of the investments in new know-how options from the COVID-19 pandemic are actually being sundown. For sustainable investments, public well being companies want the flexibility to scale knowledge and data techniques to the information volumes skilled throughout steady-state operations in addition to throughout emergency responses. Investing in a cloud-native answer affords a versatile structure and a future-proof answer that permits the general public well being company to have elastic scalability.
Lesson 5: Prioritize agile configurability to adapt to creating illness eventualities.
Canadian public well being companies benefited from IBM Panorama’s capability to serve all 100+ reportable ailments and situations. When the novel coronavirus began to emerge from lab exams, indicators and signs led epidemiologists to code this knowledge in a car parking zone inside Panorama, till LOINC and SNOWMED formally coded COVID-19. This sort of configurability is important to adapt to rising ailments and situations, as an alternative of techniques that solely serve single ailments and situations.
Lesson 6: Empower finish customers to reply quickly with a simple, customizable system.
The general public well being discipline has skilled a big turnover as folks retire or expertise burnout. Knowledge modernization initiatives afford public well being companies the chance to draw new expertise by providing options utilizing human-centered design. These options use augmented intelligence, guided workflows, machine studying and even contemplate generative AI to embed area experience inside workflows and advance the effectivity and coaching of latest customers.
Lesson 7: Use storytelling to interact stakeholders and the general public.
Whereas epidemiologists are geared up to report and analyze knowledge and talk it to different scientists, accessible storytelling is essential to fostering higher belief and influence when translating science into public communications and public coverage. In Canada, there are “knowledge storytelling” trainings for public well being professionals that empower public well being info officers and state well being officers to border knowledge insights to maximise public understanding and motion.
Create a proactive knowledge modernization plan to organize for the surprising
COVID-19 revealed alternatives to vary the way in which public well being is managed, in addition to the necessity to put money into know-how. With the CDC Knowledge Modernization Initiative and Public Health Infrastructure Grants, now’s the time for US public well being companies to be taught from fellow public well being companies, like these in Canada, as they modernize.
By taking a proactive knowledge modernization method, US public well being companies can handle steady-state operations and be higher ready to reply to the unknowns of the following public well being emergency.