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Statement on GAO Report Entitled, “COVID-19: Pandemic Lessons Highlight Need for Public Health Situational Awareness Network”

By Soumi Saha, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued today brings into painful focus how a lack of federal action to modernize the public health data infrastructure seriously undercut efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus. This is a situation that is sadly being replayed with the Monkeypox public health emergency (PHE). Relying on antiquated technology and disconnected systems burdens public health authorities, practicing physicians and hospitals with manual work all the while failing to provide early warnings of virus hotspots, putting communities at risk.

As Premier called for early in the pandemic, America needs an automated, real-time means to collect symptoms and confirmed case information consistently and comprehensively so that it can be shared between and among multiple public and private stakeholders, including federal, state, local, Territorial and tribal public health authorities as well as on-the-ground providers. Such a system can pull in information on symptoms, comorbidities and other vital information, allowing for targeted tracing and interventions to proactively prevent outbreaks. Early detection through real-time surveillance of symptoms is by far the most economical way to stem disease outbreak and would save federal, state and local governments billions in testing, contact tracing and other efforts.

Premier looks forward to working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the recently announced agency revamp to immediately prioritize and accelerate efforts to adopt a national system for syndromic surveillance. Leveraging public-private partnerships to catapult our nation’s public health data infrastructure into the 21st century is a must do.

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