Corona Expert Council calls for anonymized health data in real time

“Germany needs a comprehensive digitization of the healthcare system with the extraction, evaluation and publication of anonymized health data in real time.” This is what the Federal Government’s scientific Covid-19 expert council, appointed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in December, warns of in a statement unanimously adopted on Friday. In the further fight against the pandemic, politicians must take “urgent measures for improved data collection and digitization”.

“Up-to-date data collection, linking epidemiological and clinical data and their scientific evaluation is of the utmost importance for data- and evidence-based pandemic management,” emphasizes the 19-member council, which includes researchers such as the virologists Melanie Brinkmann, Christian Drosten and Hendrick Streeck as well as Lothar Wieler , President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Since hospitalization is equated with an increased severity of an illness, anonymized real-time data on hospital admission “represents the severity of the disease burden in the population”.

The scientists recommend that information on available resources and the occupancy of clinics should “be transmitted via the established data transmission channels from the hospitals to a body that is already routinely entrusted with this. They rely primarily on the German electronic reporting and information system for infection protection (Demis) The hospitals would have to be obliged via their controlling to also report all admissions or infections with SARS-Cov-2 that occurred in their facilities within the last 24 hours, stating the age category.

According to the paper, those responsible should also ensure that anonymized data on hospital resources and occupancy, especially around Covid-19, “are made available on a daily basis, machine-readable and transparent”. In this way, a sufficient data basis for the daily assessment of the situation could be generated very promptly. In addition, the nursing staff in the clinics, which is already routinely transmitted, should also be available for scientific evaluations. The introduction of the controversial electronic patient record (ePA) must also be “implemented with the highest priority”.

In other industrialized countries such as Denmark or Israel, real-time data collection at the individual case level has already “contributed significantly to efficiently managing the pandemic,” the scientists emphasize. In Germany, Demis – and in a sub-segment – the register for the utilization of intensive care beds in clinics would have improved the situation somewhat. However, individual cases would not yet be recorded. “Even two years after the start of the pandemic in Germany, there is still no access to some important, current care data”.

According to the document, the current omicron wave with its changed infection dynamics reinforces and once again illustrates the deficit in the timely collection and availability of relevant information. A systematic database on vaccination and therapy for Covid-19 at the individual level would also directly benefit the patient. “Further digitization steps and measures for open accessibility and up-to-date scientific analysis of pandemic-relevant data and aspects” are urgently needed – especially in preparation for next autumn and winter.

In view of the Omicron variant, the federal government should also prepare “further measures for infection control” in such a way “that they can be implemented without delay,” writes the Council in another recent submission. The population must continue to be made aware of the potential dangers for the load on critical infrastructures as well as the individual risks that could arise from an omicron infection. Contact restrictions and booster vaccinations are the means of choice to slow down the current wave and to protect the health system, for example.


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