Hospitalization Data: Sources & Limitations

What is HHS TeleTracking?

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a push for national data capture across the United States to aggregate and share hospital data. This was first mounted through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and later Health and Human Services’ (HHS) TeleTracking. To this day, many rely on HHS TeleTracking as a source of ground truth for hospital data. Hospitals report into TeleTracking every evening, and this data is available the following morning. According to the HHS TeleTracking website: “This data provides nationwide visibility into important response areas such as hospital capacity, hospitalization levels, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies, therapeutics usage, vaccinations, and staffing, as well as insight into critical capacity and supply issues. This information has helped inform the federal government’s decisions on where and how to mobilize resources to assist on the front lines of pandemic response.”

How is TeleTracking data used on the hub?

The KC Region COVID-19 Data Hub uses HHS TeleTracking data to power the hospitalizations tab of the hub. You can learn more about the data here.

HHS TeleTracking data is also used on the hub to support the Regional Risk Assessment (Bottom Line), both in the risk rating determinations and in the narrative summary for:

  • Hazard – Effects on the Population: Hospitalizations
    • Based on new COVID-19 suspected cases and confirmed hospital admissions.
  • Mitigation Measures: Hospital Staff Access to PPE
    • Based on days of supply for key PPE elements reported.
  • Ability to Respond: Hospitals’ Resource Capability and Hospitals’ Staffing
    • Hospitals’ Resource Capability is based on hospitalizations per new COVID-19 cases and bed availability in the region.
    • Hospitals’ Staffing is based on hospitals reporting an anticipated shortage in staffing next week.

Data limitations

While HHS TeleTracking is one of our best sources of data due to generally complete and timely reporting, there are limitations to this data source including unclear definitions, default responses and binary answers that do not capture the level of detail that may be necessary for complete situational understanding.

Data limitations as it relates to understanding hospital staffing

One clear example of this is the hospital staffing data capture. Hospitals have a yes or no option for “anticipating a shortage in staffing in the next week,” which defaults to “no.” We know there is nuance behind this data point. Hospital strategies to meet staffing demands have included paying bonuses for a significant number of overtime hours for their remaining team members after losing a substantial percentage of their workforce to burnout, staffing agencies and other reasons.

Combining data sources for a better picture

The KC Region Health Care Coalition meets on a regular basis to discuss this and other challenges presented by COVID-19 in the region. Based on recent conversations, we know that hospital staffing is a significant challenge. This week, the Regional Risk Assessment elevated the Hospitals’ Staffing category to a “very high” risk level based on conversations with regional partners that provide supplementary, qualitative data to HHS TeleTracking metrics. This is evidence of the strong communication across partners working to address the health needs of the Kansas City region community now and throughout the pandemic.

Phone: 816-474-4240
600 Broadway, Suite 200
Kansas City, MO 64105
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