HHS has awarded TeleTracking Technologies a six-month task order to continue providing technology used for COVID-19 hospital capacity reporting, the company said Tuesday.
TeleTracking, a health data company best known for its patient flow software, has led the data collection process for HHS Protect, a database through which hospitals and states report capacity data to the federal government. HHS Protect involves multiple commercial technologies, including from TeleTracking and big data analytics company Palantir Technologies.
TeleTracking did not disclose financial details of its latest contract. In October, NPR reported HHS had awarded TeleTracking its second six-month contract for $10.2 million, which would be up for renewal at the end of March 2021.
HHS Protect collects data from hospitals related to COVID-19 hospitalization levels, staffing, personal protective equipment and vaccination, among other data related to COVID-19 response. HHS has said the data helps to inform decisions by the White House Coronavirus Task Force—such as where to allocate COVID-19 supplies and treatments.
Public health experts raised concerns when HHS initially ordered hospitals to send data directly to the department through HHS Protect under the Trump administration in July of last year, questioning why the new process—an abrupt change amid a pandemic—bypassed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sparking congressional inquiries into how the contract to TeleTracking was awarded.
HHS officials at the time said the HHS Protect database provided more flexibility than previous reporting systems from the CDC, so that the federal government could more rapidly update the data elements hospitals are expected to report. HHS Protect is also designed to offer a central source for COVID-19 information, since it brings together information from 225 separate datasets.
Since then, groups like the COVID Tracking Project that once voiced concern about HHS’ database have said it’s the most trustworthy hospitalization data available.
There are still shortcomings in HHS’ COVID-19 reporting processes. The Government Accountability Office last week issued recommendations that HHS should consolidate its publicly available COVID-19 data and make it available at a central location online. GAO also said CDC should work with states to encourage more consistent reporting of race and ethnicity for patients who receive COVID-19 vaccinations.