State Auditor challenges Test Iowa reporting process

State Auditor Rob Sand claimed Tuesday that the Test Iowa reporting process, which goes through two private companies before reaching the Iowa Department of Public Health, is illegal.


Nick Rohlman

Then-Democratic candidate for State Auditor Rob Sand speaks during the Progress Iowa Corn Feed in Bondurant Iowa on Sept. 16, 2018.

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand released a report Tuesday that found Test Iowa results are being reported through a chain that includes two private companies before arriving to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sand said the process violates Iowa Code, which requires that labs dealing with reportable diseases “shall immediately report the case to the department.” Other labs and hospitals that process coronavirus tests report the results directly to the Department of Public Health, the report said.

The State Hygienic Lab, which operates out of the University of Iowa, processes all testing from Test Iowa, the $26 million public-private partnership meant to ramp up testing in the state. According to the report, the lab reports those results to the Utah-based company Qualtrics, which reports them to Domo, another company in Utah. Domo reports the results to Iowa’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, which ultimately sends the data to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The report says the chain of reporting leaves testing data vulnerable to corruption, error, or falsification, and leaves the state liable for a negligence lawsuit.

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The State Hygienic Lab also analyzes tests not derived from Test Iowa, which the report said are sent directly to the health department.

The Iowa Department of Public Health and Office of the Attorney General maintained that the process is within the law. A letter from Assistant Attorney General Heather Adams included in the report said the process is fully automated and takes three to 10 hours from the time the results come in to the time they are received by the department.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a Tuesday news conference that the process complies with Iowa law.

“I agree with Attorney General Miller’s office in their report that the State Hygienic Lab is following the rule of law, and I want to just tell Iowans that my focus over the last four months, in this unprecedented pandemic that we face not only in Iowa but across the country, has been to protect the health and safety of all Iowans,” she said.

While the Iowa Department of Public Health said all reporting methods take roughly the same time, according to the report, Sand challenged the efficiency of the process. Information both publicly reported and provided to the office suggest delays in reporting, the report says.

The auditor’s report also says the Iowa Department of Public Health didn’t produce requested documentation of an order directing the State Hygienic Lab to follow its current reporting process, but that no parties disputed the order was given. A verbal order does not comply with Iowa Code, the report says.

The report recommends that the orders for the Test Iowa reporting process should be written and published, and that the State Hygienic Lab should begin reporting data to the Iowa Department of Public Health and Qualtrics simultaneously.

“Due to the ongoing and high-risk nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, this change should be made immediately in order to eliminate apparently pointless risks, potential legal liability, and improve the state’s response to the pandemic.”

In an email to The Daily Iowan, Iowa Board of Regents spokesman Josh Lehman said Sand’s recommendations are inefficient and redundant. He said the process returns results in a similar timeframe to other reporting processes.

“Creating a new and separate method to report data that IDPH is already receiving via the established TestIowa process would create tremendous inefficiencies at SHL and would require additional employees,” he said in the email. “…Overall, requiring additional, duplicative data entry for the TestIowa program would lead to fewer Iowans being tested and a general slowdown in statewide COVID-19 testing efforts.”

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