Despite its far-reaching effects, there remains no standardized reporting of COVID-19-related data within the United States, a fact that prompted the introduction of the Health STATISTICS Act of 2020 to the House last week.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the legislation. It proposes to improve COVID-19 research by fixing data collection inconsistencies and creating an effective reporting scheme among national, state, county, and city-level efforts. To date, the lawmakers said, experts have access to only 40 percent of the data needed to fight the pandemic, a fact which has significantly slowed response efforts.

“In order to bolster our state and local public health professionals’ efforts to combat COVID-19 and future outbreaks, we need to improve standardized interagency data sharing between our federal agencies and states while optimizing our nation’s public health surveillance system,” Fitzpatrick said. “The bipartisan Health STATISTICS Act will help achieve better patient outcomes and will save more lives by providing researchers with better access to higher quality data and would modernize our nation’s data infrastructure so that our public health infrastructure can meet immediate surveillance, reporting, and other outbreak management needs.”

Failure to achieve standardization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Thomas Frieden, would leave the assembly and use of data from public health departments, labs, and similar agencies all but impossible. Further, patient demographics are left non-compulsory in such a case, meaning figures reaching health professionals and policymakers may not be accurate.

The Health STATISTICS Act would change this by establishing reporting requirements, demanding coordination between federal and state agencies, require the Department of Health and Human Services to share health data and designate data, technology standards and common reporting criteria, while also creating a great program for state, local, tribal and territorial public health departments to expand and modernize their public health data systems.