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Access and Interoperability: Why Reconciling Diverse Datasets Matters | SSG

Posted on January 19th, 2022   |   SSG

All data is not created equal. Every bit of data has value, but varying circumstances mean that not everyone can get the same benefit from every data point. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this especially clear. Though health organizations worldwide share their findings, different circumstances across countries and even states can make data from one place seem less helpful elsewhere. But no matter how different our situations, we can all offer each other fresh insights. By upgrading our data infrastructure and implementing data interoperability, we can better apply information from all over the world when creating our analytical and predictive models.  

Data interoperability refers to how systems and services generate, exchange, and consume data to create clear, shared expectations for the contents, context, and meaning of that data. All interoperable systems must present shared data in a way that is understood by all others, like a universal translator. Interoperability can improve productivity, eliminate errors, and reduce costs for all organizations involved. When researching a worldwide crisis like COVID, interoperability ensures all shared data is as useful as possible, wherever in the world it is analyzed. 

For a clear picture of how data interoperability can benefit researchers in different situations, look no further than Israel and the United States. Israel has universal healthcare and a more homogeneous population. Israelis proved more vulnerable as a group to Delta vaccine breakthroughs, but also managed a very fast and comprehensive booster shot rollout. The United States sports a much larger and more diverse population, for-profit healthcare, and different approaches to the coronavirus response on a state-by-state basis. COVID data in Israel and the US is thus extremely different, but data interoperability could help each nation leverage the other’s data to suit its needs.  

The very factors that make Israel so different from the US mean they are further along in the Omicron curve. Better data infrastructure could help American researchers translate Israeli data to perform more accurate forecasting here. By the same means, data from the United States could provide Israel with useful models of how COVID spreads and mutates in larger populations including significant anti-vaccination elements. But the differences between both nations must be accounted for and reconciled if either is to make good use of the other’s data.  

If countries as different as the United States and Israel have useful data to share with one another, imagine what interoperability could do for different jurisdictions within the US. We need a uniform, comprehensive platform to ensure data is useful to everyone. Adopting comprehensive data platforms that establish interoperability between datasets is imperative if researchers hope to make proper use of information from beyond their own backyard.