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Midlands Voices: Info-sharing boosts Nebraska's fight against coronavirus

Midlands Voices: Info-sharing boosts Nebraska's fight against coronavirus

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The writer, of Omaha, is a state senator representing District 9 in the Nebraska Legislature. She is chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee.

The Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NEHII), in cooperation with the state Department of Health and Human Services, has shown remarkable leadership by rapidly deploying COVID-19 data-monitoring efforts to make a difference in keeping Nebraskans healthy. NEHII’s COVID-19 Response Team launched real-time data dashboards that provide health care providers up-to-date, complete information on key needs in regard to COVID-19: Test results for Nebraskans. The availability of beds in the state. And medical supply resources to help fight the spread of the disease.

NEHII currently collects information from the majority of hospitals and health systems across the state through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), a data-driven method to fight opioid addiction in Nebraska. However, while all providers participate in the PDMP, not all hospitals and health systems participate with NEHII, which can lead to critical gaps in information at this significant moment in history. The moment coronavirus was detected in Nebraska, NEHII immediately began the process to rapidly include health care facilities, health care providers and labs that were not currently data sharing through NEHII to send admission, discharge, laboratory and other pertinent data related to COVID-19.

A great example of how relevant NEHII is during this crisis is their ability to gather all testing data for Nebraskans.

While the state of Nebraska is able to share test results processed at the state laboratory, NEHII may also gather and access all lab results from private laboratories where tests may be sent due to capacity or overflow. NEHII is working to ensure that a provider can see the results of a COVID-19 test from wherever the results are processed.

As a result, if a COVID-19-positive patient ends up in the emergency room, for example, that provider will now be able to see the results of all screenings and act accordingly because of the robust data connections of NEHII.

The other very exciting data dashboard that NEHII is developing for the state of Nebraska is to monitor the number and types of hospital beds available in the state.

Today, data regarding beds is processed manually. NEHII has the ability to provide real-time connections showing the admissions and discharges from a facility: NEHII can show bed availability the moment it occurs. This dashboard will also help the state monitor recoveries from COVID-19.

Work is underway now to identify bed types and other details that are needed beyond a simple count of in and out. I am optimistic that this data dashboard will be available before Nebraska hits the peak of the COVID-19 curve, ensuring that EMS teams, providers and others will know exactly where to send a positive patient with an appropriate available bed.

Finally, there has been a considerable amount of attention to the issue of the need for personal protective equipment, masks and ventilators. This situation has highlighted the need to understand the availability of these crucial supplies in this state. Under normal circumstances, each individual facility knows its needs and has a supply-order process that supports its normal operation. NEHII is currently working with supply chain leaders at health care facilities to automate supply requests and give a more complete view for the state of what Nebraska has for its patients. A supply dashboard developed in the coming weeks by NEHII will assist the state HHS as it is faced with the daunting task of how to distribute supplies that become available from federal partners.

Nebraska is fortunate to have a remarkable partner in NEHII to manage data resources for our state. NEHII’s response to COVID-19 reduces gaps in public health data and uses only COVID-19 patient data to ultimately keep Nebraskans healthy during this time of a worldwide pandemic.

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