A free daily digest of the biggest news stories of the day - and the best features from our website
Thank you for signing up to TheWeek. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
America's outdated systems of storing and transferring health data have never been more obvious — or dangerous.
The U.S. finally has made great strides in increasing the testing capacity it needs to track how COVID-19 is spreading across the country and move toward stopping its stampede. There's just one big problem: That data is often sent via fax machines and phone calls, and is often sent to the wrong places, meaning "the data is moving slower than the disease," the executive director of Houston's Harris County health department Dr. Umair Shah tells The New York Times.
The fax machine is almost as formidable an enemy as COVID-19 at the Harris County Public Health office. The department collects results of coronavirus tests in the area and uses them to contact trace and potentially quarantine people, preferably through a simple data transfer on the computer. But others come via "phone, email, physical mail, or fax," as it's expensive to upgrade data storage systems while still preserving health privacy standards.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
That in turn forces workers to physically input a variety of data into the department's database, increasing the chances of mistakes and slowing the COVID-19 tracking process down dramatically. And when a doctor's office sends a mass of results at once, "picture the image of hundreds of faxes coming through, and the machine just shooting out paper," Shah described.
Houston isn't alone in its data dilemma — Washington state even brought in the National Guard to deal with its piles of paper test results earlier in the pandemic. Read more at The New York Times.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.