Lapses in DOH patients’ data uncovered
MANILA, Philippines – Several supposed discrepancies on the COVID-19 patients’ data — ranging from changes in gender to patients recorded as dead but are actually alive — have been pointed out by the University of the Philippines (UP) COVID-19 response team.
According to a Facebook post by the UP Resilience Institute on Tuesday, they have spotted these errors from observing the official Department of Health (DOH) data from April 24 to April 25. In one day, 45 cases have changed genders, while at least 75 patients became either older or younger.
At least 516 meanwhile were reclassified to a different city or location while one patient was reported dead only to be among the alive patients the next day.
While these data discrepancies may seem minor, the UP COVID-19 response team said in its Policy Note entitled “Prevailing Data Issues in the Time of COVID-19 and the Need for Open Data” that accurate data is integral in mounting the appropriate response to the pandemic.
“The availability of accurate and relevant data is a basic requirement in managing any situation that requires urgent and targeted response […] Accuracy, however, goes beyond correctness in reporting aggregate numbers. Recent data drops by DOH revealed a number of alarming patient-level inconsistencies, if not gross errors,” the group explained.
“For example, on 03 May 2020, DOH reported 7 deaths (28 recoveries) in Laguna, which was 22 deaths (65 recoveries) lesser than the provincial government’s official count,” they added.
The UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team believes that the availability of accurate, relevant, and timely data is a basic…
Aside from these, the team also noted that 18 patients have no data on their residences and that DOH uses several methods to connote dates — which makes it difficult for computerized and automated systems to keep track of the COVID-19 cases.
“There are other troubling anomalies in recent data drops of DOH. For example, 18 cases no longer have data on residence in the April 25 update. On the same date, the recovery dates of two cases were either missing or changed. One patient who reportedly died on April 24 is no longer dead the following day,” the UP COVID-19 response team said.
“These lapses may seem small relative to the total size of data contained in the daily updates, but they have significant implications on the reliability of our scientific analyses on COVID-19. Patient case data is the keystone for effective and insightful metrics and analysis,” they stressed.
No reply yet from DOH
INQUIRER.net has contacted DOH officials to air their side on the issue but they have yet to reply as of posting time.
DOH has opened several sites showing COVID-19 data that can be accessed by the public. However, several other details have been kept secret to ensure the protection of patients — especially since several health workers tending to COVID-19 patients and the relatives of the infected themselves have been subjected to discrimination and harassment.
The UP COVID-19 response team said that although they understand that there are limitations to what DOH can reveal, there is a way to share data without breaching data privacy laws — like when the government tapped private firms to process these numbers and information.
“For example, identifiers, such as employment information or specific addresses may be removed, but variables such as the onset of symptoms, exposure history, comorbidities, and whether they were medical front-liners or not are key inputs for modelers and statisticians to map the progress of our fight against COVID-19,” they claimed.
Nearly two months into lockdowns brought by the pandemic, the increase in COVID-19 cases have yet to slow down. As of Monday, DOH has recorded 11,350 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 751 deaths and 2,106 recoveries.
Worldwide, over 4.190 million persons have been infected, 286,456 of whom have died while 1.469 million have recovered.
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