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Develop pandemic data standards to improve data sharing, Australia’s CSIRO suggests

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency, suggests developing national pandemic data standards to improve data collection and sharing as part of the country’s future pandemic response.

This is one of the agency’s recommendations to the government on data sharing for informed response strategies during pandemics.


CSIRO highlighted the importance of data recording and messaging standards to improve data quality at the point of entry and thus enable interoperability. Due to the lack of uniform data standards in Australia, there have been difficulties in exchanging data between health systems. This challenge was further exacerbated during the pandemic, especially for new pathogens, as standards were developed independently across health regions and even across institutions.

He said specific pandemic response data collection standards and implementation guidance could be developed for major diseases caused by identified priority viral families.

The government could build on existing initiatives to speed up this development, such as expanding the Australian Digital Health Agency’s (ADHA) work on a catalog of digital standards to include data standards to support a pandemic response; use existing standards, such as SNOMED CT for clinical data and HL7 FHIR for exchanging information, as a basis; o Align national standards with international standards to facilitate global collaboration.

Aside from this, the agency also recommended improving the country’s capabilities to link health data with non-health data, including geo-referenced socioeconomic, intervention compliance, movement, and environmental data.

“Successful linking of health and non-health data can help anticipate patterns of spread during pandemics, provide projections on the success of interventions, and inform response decision-making through the use of predictive models and epidemiological methodologies” he explained.

His third recommendation regarding data sharing is to design and integrate smart analytics that can share and analyze sensitive data nationally. Analysis of this type of data along with other health data could provide continuous, real-time information to safely inform responses to the pandemic, the agency said.


CSIRO emphasized that health data is crucial in informing pandemic response strategies. Having standards that support data collection, terminology, storage, and sharing processes ensures the health system’s ability to share data across institutions and jurisdictions.

However, the Australian health system faces limitations in data sharing due to different governance of health systems and inconsistent adoption of technologies and standards. Such limitations have also hampered timely and well-informed policy decision-making, especially during pandemics.

Although the country has novel technologies that can integrate various data for political decision-making, “it is not as mature for responses to the pandemic,” the agency said.

CSIRO expects that by the end of this decade, Australia will have implemented national health data standards across jurisdictions and adaptive guidelines for pandemic responses, both of which will support interoperable health data collection systems and enable the use of sensitive and unrelated data. with health to inform government decision-making during pandemics.


The focus on data sharing to inform pandemic response strategies is one of six key science and technology (S&T) areas identified by CSIRO as being critical to minimizing the impact of future pandemics in Australia.

In the report Entitled Strengthening Australia’s Pandemic Preparedness, the agency outlined ways the federal government can improve the country’s resilience to emerging pandemics, reduce their economic impact and protect the community.

As CSIRO has just recommended the adoption of uniform data standards in the exchange of health data, the ADHA is already working with Health Level Seven Australia to improve connectivity across the national health system by promoting the consistent adoption of FHIR standards across the country’s health system. This forms part of the draft National Health Interoperability Plan, which envisions a more connected Australian health system. by 2027.


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