The Department of Defense (DoD) cannot rely on the data in the COVID-19 Registry to make public health and clinical care decisions concerning the pandemic because it’s incomplete, inaccurate, or unrepresentative of the DoD workforce, the agency’s watchdog said in a July 7 report.

The COVID-19 Registry was established in July 2020 by the Defense Health Agency to collect data on all COVID-19 events within the Military Health System; after the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) (ASD[HA]) issued a memorandum.

The Joint Trauma System (JTS), a subordinate organization of the Defense Health Agency, was responsible for maintaining the COVID-19 Registry.

However, because the ASD(HA) lacked a process for developing and populating patient registries, any data from the COVID-19 Registry that JTS officials provided to the DoD during the pandemic was inaccurate and potentially misleading.

“The DoD cannot rely on the data in the COVID-19 Registry to make public health and clinical care decisions concerning the COVID-19 pandemic because the data were not complete, accurate, or representative of the universe of DoD patients who had a COVID-19 event,” the report states.

Additionally, the DoD hired a contractor to enter patient health data into the registry with an accuracy rate of at least 90 percent. However, the inspector general (IG) found that the DoD spent $6.2 million on registry support services that did not meet the data accuracy requirements.

“We identified errors in 24 of the 25 registry records we reviewed; therefore, we are at least 90 percent confident that the accuracy rate of the data in the registry is less than the contractually required minimum of 90 percent,” the report reads.

Among the 12 recommendations the IG sent, it advised that the ASD(HA) establish and implement a policy for developing and populating patient registries and conduct a review of all patient registries in the Military Health System to verify the reliability of data in each registry. In addition, the IG recommends that the JTS chief conducts an analysis to determine whether the contractor complied with the terms of the contracts and recoup any of the $6.2 million in question.

The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness concurred with four recommendations but disagreed with eight of the 12 recommendations. In addition, DoD officials agreed with but did not address the specifics of one recommendation.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.