Resilient healthcare

Better health data, a COVID silver lining?

03/05/2022 PNG

The pandemic forced countries to develop near real-time data on case numbers, test results, mortality, vaccinations, hospitalisations and hospital saturation in order to make public-health decisions like when to impose or lift restrictions, triggering advances in the timeliness and quality of national health datasets in numerous countries.

Before COVID-19, only a handful of countries produced daily or weekly healthcare datasets, but 23 out of 24 countries surveyed by the OECD reported improved data timeliness as a result of the pandemic.

Mortality data was particularly important. Until 2020, most countries produced mortality statistics on an annual basis. Only two countries, Latvia and Denmark, reported having mortality data available in real time prior to 2021. COVID-19 transformed this, hitting countries in drastic waves that evolved significantly on a week-by-week basis. In many cases, mortality data are now generated on a daily basis—and sometimes even multiple times daily.

Not only did more countries start producing health data regularly and rapidly, but the quality of their data improved as well. The accuracy, coverage and completeness of the datasets increased during the pandemic in 19 out of the 24 surveyed countries.

These major improvements in health data show how health systems adapted to the crisis, and are continuing to forge a path towards greater resilience.

Read the paper: Health data and governance developments in relation to COVID-19.