DOH launches COVID-19 monitoring app to limit errors in data tally

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Responding to experts pointing out flaws in its records, the Department of Health is taking steps with the help of a partner company to improve its COVID-19 data gathering system with a new digital app for frontliners. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Responding to experts pointing out flaws in its records, the Department of Health is taking steps with the help of a partner company to improve its COVID-19 data gathering system with a new digital app for frontliners.

Thinking Machines Data Science Inc., a company working with the department, said it has begun deployment of COVID KAYA, a digital surveillance application developed with the help of the World Health Organization and where frontliners can input cases information directly into the DOH's system.

Founder and CEO Stephanie Sy explained that there were inconsistencies in data gathering on COVID-19 since health personnel have been submitting information by manually filling out forms that would still have to be encoded.

"Sometimes it's an encoding issue, sometimes it's a process issue," said Sy during the DOH's daily online briefing. "Sometimes the form is filled incorrectly or (they) tagged the wrong person."

Reports from the app can be seen and added to the system as early as next week, she added.

"This means the number of steps it takes to collect data from suspected cases, to verify that data and to load it into a data store and to have that data usable by all the different scientists, LGU policy makers and national policy makers can all be centralized," said Sy.

Sy said the DOH has been reporting real-time data every 4 p.m., as indicated in the agency's daily posts, which means whatever case information the hospital staff submits is immediately published before it is updated.

"[We] update the publicly shared data sets for the next day," she explained. "We do not update the previous day's data because we believe in transparency and maintaining what is in the public record as was true of that day."

But this time the DOH will be including in its daily updates what corrections and changes have been made, Sy added.

On Tuesday, a team of 200 experts detailed multiple errors in the COVID-19 cases tally such as classifying 516 patients to an "imaginary city."

This development earned the ire of lawmakers who then expressed doubt on the basis of the government's recent policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, both Sy and the DOH maintained that the previous mistakes remain at less than one percent of the total record, as previously defended by Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

"Sa kabila po ng lahat ng ito, confident po kami na ang ating data ay reliable na basehan ng aming mga nagiging desisyon," said Health Spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire.

[Translation: Despite all of this, we are confident that our data is a reliable basis for our decisions.]

Sy said the DOH data has been 99 percent accurate even as they continue to upgrade the system.

"It really takes months to build and test a data system properly," she pointed out. "Here with the DOH, we've been building it in real-time...and sharing data on it since day 1. I would really like it to get to 99.9 percent reliable and consistent."