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Maintaining COVID-19 Value Sets: Takeaways from a First Time Project Manager

 Amid the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the HDD team created several new value sets collecting the relevant standard codes, to be provided free to anyone who may find them useful in data identification in relation to the crisis. Once the first version was released and the dust had settled, I volunteered to be the project manager to handle ongoing updates and releases – referred to as “maintenance” in our work.  


The maintenance is important for this project because of how rapidly the situation is evolving. After our first release we were updating some of the value sets every two weeks; particularly the “Lab” value set as many new standard codes were being developed to capture all the new lab tests being created. We also updated the signs and symptoms, complications, and comorbidities value sets as the scientific community discovered more about the virus. We spent the first releases focused on capturing the updated knowledge and new codes. We are now several months past the first version of the value
sets and the release of new codes has slowed. Now the focus for the COVID-19 value sets is to evaluate possible expansion of content.

It’s my first year on the team and this would be my first time being a project manager. I have learned
a lot about managing a project and being a value set owner; the key takeaways are:

1. Know your goal(s): The intended purpose or use case of the value set will affect maintenance. For example, do you want to have all the current codes at a point in time and only update if
those codes change with the standard updates? Or do you want to expand the value set as knowledge evolves or new information is available? The maintenance of the same value set
could be different for different use cases and may require different amounts of effort and different plans for maintenance. Knowing the goal at the outset of maintenance will keep
you on the right path, but don’t be surprised if the goal changes.

2. Keep strict deadlines: Ensure you have strict deadlines for mapping, review, and any other steps of your process. This will ensure that you are not running behind on new releases.

3. Don’t go it alone: Have a mentor who works in the content and is excited about the process; this will help guide you and ensure success.

4. Get feedback: Feedback from your team as well as the customers using your value sets will guide you toward expansion. If you start expanding before you know the use case you’ve put the cart before the horse. You are only imagining how the content could be used, which is fun, but not practical

5. Write it all down: From version to version keep track of the changes you’ve made, the input you’ve gotten, and how the process has evolved. Learn from past mistakes or successes and you will grow as a project manager.

I hope these five key takeaways help anyone thinking of stepping up to become a project manager or a first-time value set owner on their path to successful maintenance.
Please contact us if you have questions or suggestions for future topics of discussion, or for help implementing or mapping to standard terminologies.