Australia’s CSIRO proposes developing epidemic data standards to improve data sharing

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia’s national science agency, is proposing the development of national pandemic data standards to improve data collection and sharing as part of the country’s future response to the pandemic.

This is one of the agency’s recommendations to the government on sharing data for informed response strategies during epidemics.

What is it about

CSIRO stressed the importance of data logging and messaging standards to improve data quality at the point of entry, thus enabling interoperability. Due to the lack of uniform data standards in Australia, there has been difficulty in sharing data across health systems. This challenge has been exacerbated during a pandemic, especially for new pathogens, as standards have been developed independently between health districts and even institutions.

She said specific criteria could be developed to collect epidemic response data and implementation guidelines for major diseases caused by identified priority viral families.

The government can build on existing initiatives to streamline this development, such as expanding the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) work on its catalog of digital standards to include data standards to support the response to the pandemic; Use current standards, such as SNOMED CT for clinical data and HL7 FHIR for information exchange, as a basis; or aligning national standards with international standards to facilitate global cooperation.

Apart from that, the agency also recommended improving the state’s capabilities to link health data with non-health data, including geo-referenced socio-economic data, intervention compliance, movement, and environmental data.

She explained, “Successful linkage between healthy and unhealthy data can help predict patterns of prevalence during epidemics, provide predictions about the success of interventions, and inform response decision-making through the use of predictive modeling and epidemiological methodologies.”

Her third recommendation regarding data sharing is to design and integrate smart analytics that can share and analyze sensitive data at the national level. The agency claimed that analysis of this type of data combined with other health data could provide continuous, real-time insights to safely inform epidemic responses.

why does it matter

CSIRO stressed that health data is essential to guide pandemic response strategies. Having standards that support data collection, terminology, storage, and sharing processes ensure that the health system is able to share data between institutions and jurisdictions.

However, the Australian health system faces limitations in sharing data due to the changing management of health systems and the inconsistent adoption of technologies and standards. These limitations have also hampered informed and timely political decision-making, particularly during epidemics.

The agency said that while the country has new technologies that can integrate diverse data for policy decision-making, it is “not ripe for pandemic response.”

CSIRO hopes that by the end of this decade, Australia will have implemented national health data standards across jurisdictions and adaptive guidelines for epidemic responses, both of which will support interoperable health data collection systems and will enable unhealthy and sensitive data to be used to inform government decision-making during epidemics. .

larger context

The focus on sharing data to inform pandemic response strategies is one of the six key science and technology (S&T) areas identified by CSIRO that are critical to reducing the impact of future epidemics in Australia.

In the Report The agency, titled Strengthening Australia’s Pandemic Preparedness, outlined ways the federal government could improve the country’s resilience to emerging pandemics, reduce their economic impact, and protect society.

Since CSIRO has just recommended the adoption of unified data standards in health data exchange, ADHA already works with Health Level Seven Australia To improve communication across the national healthcare system by promoting consistent adoption of FHIR standards across a country’s health system. This forms part of a draft National Healthcare Interoperability Plan, which envisions a more connected Australian health system by 2027.

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