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Data Accuracy Problems with Initial Federal Data Release on COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) writes of problems found in the initial federal data on COVID-19 in nursing homes. Nursing homes are now required to report this data directly to the CDC weekly, under penalty of fines from $1,000 per week of delay and higher. As of May 31 more than 88% of the nation’s 15,000 nursing facilities had submitted their numbers.

But there were clear problems with the accuracy of the data in this inaugural data release. The upshot of releasing the data so fast was not enough time to check the reliability of the data, with no checking with many outliers – especially facilities with the highest number of cases relative to their reported number of beds – to ask whether the dataset was correct for their facilities. AHCJ writes there was no system by which the CDC or CMS would notify each facility about how their data was going to appear prior to publish. CMS has responded that as with any new reporting program, there can be data submission errors in the beginning. To be transparent, CMS made the data collected by the CDC public as quickly as possible, balancing transparency and speed against the potential of initial data errors.

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