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 component, an unsung hero is the information modernization efforts that helped Canada observe and include the sudden rise in infections and meet the demand for public well being companies.
In the case 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 achievement when the subsequent problem arrives. Even inside imperfect political realities, public well being organizations around the globe can be taught and emulate Canada’s response via knowledge modernization, probably saving thousands and thousands of lives within the subsequent public well being emergency.
A proactive method to the specter of a world 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 will 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 circumstances.
Throughout this era, Panorama helped Canadian authorities take care of 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 take care of:
- A novel illness for which no requirements (reminiscent of 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 obtainable)
- New vaccines and evolving protocols, reminiscent of mixing and matching doses with totally different vaccines
- The necessity to talk well being dangers to the general public based mostly 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 outfitted with Panorama had been higher ready to reply to the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to many US counterparts, they’d a strong enterprise-grade answer that was particularly designed for public well being. This answer had the aptitude to handle giant scale immunization occasions and illness surveillance.
Given world journey and local weather change, it’s affordable to anticipate that one other pandemic (and the issues listed above) might 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 important knowledge, investing in sensible, succesful and versatile knowledge modernization techniques, and getting ready individuals with the right data and abilities.
Lesson 1: Use a knowledge 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 data 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. Information silos usually happen when knowledge will not be shared or accessible, resulting in workarounds and incomplete data. It’s essential to determine 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 large volumes of information in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. US companies invested emergency COVID-19 funding into new case administration and call coaching options. Nonetheless, these had been usually stand-alone options that didn’t deal with the underlying problems with siloed, incomplete or duplicative knowledge.
Canada used built-in public well being data techniques, like Panorama, for seamless knowledge ingestion, cleaning and import processing. By way of techniques integration by way of open APIs and different technique of integrating knowledge into affected person well being information, this served as the one supply of fact for all publicity, case investigation, contact tracing, outbreak administration and case administration data 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 power to scale knowledge and knowledge techniques to the information volumes skilled throughout steady-state operations in addition to throughout emergency responses. Investing in a cloud-native answer gives 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 situations.
Canadian public well being companies benefited from IBM Panorama’s means to serve all 100+ reportable ailments and circumstances. When the novel coronavirus began to emerge from lab assessments, indicators and signs led epidemiologists to code this knowledge in a parking zone inside Panorama, till LOINC and SNOWMED formally coded COVID-19. This type of configurability is important to adapt to rising ailments and circumstances, as a substitute of techniques that solely serve single ailments and circumstances.
Lesson 6: Empower finish customers to reply quickly with a simple, customizable system.
The general public well being subject has skilled a big turnover as individuals retire or expertise burnout. Information 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 outfitted to report and analyze knowledge and talk it to different scientists, accessible storytelling is essential to fostering higher belief and impression 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 data 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 sudden
COVID-19 revealed alternatives to alter the way in which public well being is managed, in addition to the necessity to spend money on know-how. With the CDC Information Modernization Initiative and Public Health Infrastructure Grants, now could be 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 subsequent public well being emergency.