Lessons Learned on Data Integrity in the Fight Against Covid

In January 2020, I agreed to take on responsibilities as Editor-in-Chief for Nature’s digital medicine journal, npjDigital Medicine.  With all of the on-the-job training, I have learned quickly how critical our associate editors and reviewers are and, thus, the high quality of the papers we publish.  It is easy to view this enterprise with pride, and my goal is to be a steward of that already impressive process.

As medicine becomes more digital, it won’t be long before the moniker ‘digital medicine’ will be viewed as a quaint reminder of a time when we struggled to integrate digital technologies into care delivery.  Our activities in healthcare are analog in nature, interactions between providers and patients, mostly occurring in physical proximity involving deeply personal relationships. Thus, it has taken time. But we all know that digital is the next frontier and that there will be a time in the near future when our patients will have a fully integrated digital and in-person experience. At that time, it will simply be ‘medicine.’

To prepare for this future, I intend to develop a series of strategies that will make the content of our journal more accessible, relevant, and relatable to non-scientists.  I wish to welcome in other members of the healthcare community – clinicians, executives, policymakers, and the like.

Two recent publications in the journal illustrate this goal.

First is the article by the 4CE consortium, showing the power of preparing a common data model so that decision-makers around the world can have access to meaningful data about a variety of public health concerns, most currently Covid-19.

This comes on the heels of retractions of papers from two of the most prestigious journals because the data sources were not verifiable as accurate.

Thus we felt it essential to publish an accompanying editorial highlighting the importance of verifiable data and heightened scrutiny of data sources in real-world studies.

I want to thank colleagues, Isaac Kohane, Harlan Krumholz, and Wade Schulz for participating in this effort, Zak for bringing together the consortium and Harlan and Wade for collaborating with me on the editorial.

Soon, you’ll see more content from our editorial team that will put our most meaningful studies into context.  In that way, we can broaden the community of readers and prepare for that day when ‘digital becomes medicine.’

I encourage you to visit the journal websitenpj Digital Medicine is an open-access journal. All of our articles are available for free download.  Also, sign up for e-alerts so you can get a list of new articles delivered to your inbox regularly.