We know the importance of quick and accurate COVID-19 testing, but do we know when to get tested or even when to seek medical attention? Physicians also need to know which patient will be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 or having complications from the disease. This pandemic is not ending quickly; we need to gather data to develop evidence-based treatment guidance and to provide new information for how to fight the next epidemic. As the clinical picture is evolving quickly and a large amount of data is generated, COVID-19 value sets, which logically group all relevant standard codes from multiple terminologies, can help to ensure that the needed data is identified.
We have learned the most common signs and symptoms of COVID-19: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Patients have also reported abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, malaise, headache, as well as loss of smell and taste. The COVID-19 value set of these clinical findings in a patient can be used to “trigger” an alert for testing. These early recognition signs and symptoms can also get a patient into isolation areas quicker while waiting for testing and determining the acuity of care needed. A COVID-19 value set of high-risk conditions, including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, severe obesity, diabetes, etc. can raise the alarm for healthcare workers, as the presence of these comorbidities has shown an increase in poorer outcomes in conjunction with a COVID-19 diagnosis. A value set of a patient’s personal demographics and Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), , can also be useful in determining increased risk. Last but not least, there are now 40 LOINC codes for SARS-CoV-2 testing (four of which are panel tests) with more to come; a COVID-19 lab tests value set would group all of them for ease of data exchange and reporting.
Ideally, the patient’s electronic health record (EHR) will have the information needed to generate data from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because interoperability is necessary to share and make use of this information globally, data to be exchanged should be encoded using standard terminologies like SNOMED CT, ICD-10-CM, and LOINC. PHIN VADS (Public Health Info Network, Vocabulary Access and Distribution System) provides value sets to the CDC and its public health partners. You can also browse for starter sets on the Value Set Authority Center (VSAC), which provides a platform for organizations (called “stewards”) to upload their value sets. Users are expected to review the content of each value set of interest, and correct or enhance as needed.
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