The German government’s Corona Expert Council calls for the evaluation of anonymized health data in real time. It sees this practice, which is already being implemented in Denmark, for example, as a key means of pandemic control.
What exactly is required?
“Up-to-date data collection, linkage of epidemiological and clinical data, and scientific evaluation of these data is of paramount importance for data- and evidence-based pandemic management,” reads the council’s statement, which was agreed to by all nineteen members, including, for example, Christian Drosten, Melanie Brinkmann, Hendrik Streeck, and Lothar Wieler. Specifically, they want to require all hospitals to report all admissions of people infected with Sars-CoV-2, as well as all infections first detected in the hospital, within 24 hours, indicating the age group of those affected. In addition, daily reporting of hospital resources and occupancy is required.
Redesign electronic patient record
In another proposal, the council recommended that the controversial electronic female patient record not only be implemented as soon as possible, but also be fundamentally restructured. The demand is aimed above all at enabling the derivation of health data. Individual health data should thus “also be accessible for anonymized scientific evaluation.” Although no further concrete proposals for technical redesign have been made, all indications are that this would involve a switch from an opt-in procedure to data disclosure activated by default.
Data collection in other countries
Reference is also made to the fact that real-time data collection is already being used successfully in other countries and has proven to be efficient. Denmark and Israel are cited as examples. According to the members of the Council of Experts, data collection and analysis in the above-mentioned countries contributed significantly to the control of the pandemic. In this country, on the other hand, important data that could provide further information on the spread of the virus, the groups particularly at risk, and the burden on the health care system were still lacking.
Data protection not addressed
Data protection concerns, such as those expressed in the discussion of the female patient record, are not addressed in the comments. It is merely pointed out that the data are to be forwarded and evaluated in anonymized form. In concrete terms, however, it is feared that sovereignty over sensitive personal data will be shifted from patients to the state.