Friday, August 14, 2009

The CDC's vaccine data mess - please help them out

This page is how America distributes the data set that's supposed to represents all the vaccine information used in electronic health records and national reporting: Vaccines: IIS/Stds/CVX-Vaccines Administered

You know, the kind of reporting that's useful, for, say managing swine flu vaccine programs.

It's not being distributed in some UMLS data format, or a tab delimited UTF-8 file, or a Microsoft Acccess table or XML or even Microsoft Excel or ... or ... or even a 4 column RTF or .DOC table.

It's distributed as an HTML page with inline comments and footnotes or as a PDF document.

Anyone wanting to actually implement this has to cut and paste into something like Excel, move the inline annotations around, get rid of the footnotes, represent color and font changes as attributes, and so on.

This isn't rocket science guys. The management of this sort of data set was well understood in the 1960s. Forget about all those wonderful visions of just-in-time clinical decision support, this is really simple, basic, stuff.

Every American should give the CDC a penny so they can engage an underemployed informaticist to fix up their CVX distribution system.

Or maybe the CDC could, you know, hand this over to the NLM to manage?

PS. This story is consistent with the way ICD-9 was once managed. ICD-9-CM (diagnostic) is the payment justification code set that's sort of used to track diseases and horribly misused in clinical care reporting and automation. I'd love to see a sociology researcher dig down and find out why it is we end up with such bad management of fairly simple things.

Update: The CVX to CPT map table is even worse.

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