How 3 health systems are using data analytics to respond to the challenges of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of robust data analytics and reporting efforts for health systems. 

How health systems are using data analytics to help respond to the challenges of the pandemic was one of the topics experts discussed during a session at the Becker's HIT + Revenue Cycle Virtual Event on Oct. 6. The panel included: 

  • Ash Goel MD, senior vice president and Chief  Information and Informatics Officer at Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Bronson Healthcare Group  
  • Srinivasan Suresh, MD, vice president, CIO and Chief Medical Information Officer at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh 
  • Pavan Attur, CIO of Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus, N.J. 

Here's an excerpt from the conversation, edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here

Question: How has your organization used data analytics to help respond to the challenges of the pandemic? 

Dr. Srinivasan Suresh: At UPMC Children's Hospital, we have a state-of-the-art data warehouse. At the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, we used a few tools.

Number one, we quickly created a few reports that were distributed to a wide group of clinical and administrative leaders, including our quality and infection prevention teams. To give an example, the daily report included just high-level information: how many children were tested positive were admitted, etc. The weekly report added further details. What was their additional diagnosis? Did they need an ICU stay? Things like that.

Number two, UPMC, as a large health system, instituted a dashboard, which is still easily accessed by clinical and administrative leaders. Additionally, the University of Pittsburgh, which is one of the top sites in the world for coronavirus research, and now the COVID vaccine research has its own dashboard. It's also important that we work and continue to work closely with state and local agencies as in the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Allegheny County Health Department to obtain relevant data and share it with our caregivers.

And finally, it's also important to be transparent with our own hospital employees. We're talking about patients, but just to worry about our own employees, every two weeks we have a virtual town hall attended by almost a thousand employees, which is led by our president, our chief nursing officer, and the physician lead for infection prevention. And we share high-level information related to COVID with all our employees. These have been our mechanisms for sharing information. 

Dr. Ash Goel: As Suresh mentioned, the speed with which the needs of data sharing and the evolution of the demands of the data that you were trying to gather vary rapidly required technology to change the way we were responding to the pandemic. Our journey was fairly similar to what UPMC Children's did. We had a fairly similar journey around being able to pull real-time data on existing patients, system capacities, availability of isolation beds, availability of ventilators, supplies, PPE, everything that we needed to manage, which was in real time made available to incident response teams throughout the organization so that they could decide where they needed to move resources. We had built surge units. We had added capacities outside of our facilities to be able to manage the data there, as well, and it was also very, very important for us to take a very rapid cycle approach.

Responding to the shifting needs of the community, sharing that information with the broader consumer population has all been about strategy and learning until now. I think one of the important things for us, which I would perhaps also like to highlight is that the result of this transparency has shifted overall from being a health system, to being a convener of health in the areas that we serve. And that's a non-traditional role because typically public health is a county or a state department of health initiative, but because of the outsized responsibilities of the health systems such as ourselves and others, it has become an interesting pivot for us to think differently. And analytics certainly has played a huge role in how we have been able to gather public data, private data, and trying to make it come together to share. 

Pavan Attur: To add to what Suresh and Ash said, we use similar tools and we quickly had to create some reports, especially because we were doing so many tests, so much testing, around 500 tests per day to the trial to a clinic outside the hospital. And we have to report the test results to the patients and to the state. We had some dashboards before, but we had to quickly develop new dashboards and also simple reporting to the patients, their families, their primary physicians and also internal communication within our management team, especially for lab to be prepared for the necessary lab tests kits because we were running out of them so quickly because we became the county's preferred testing site. And we also had to give weekly reports to our business development team so they could publish it out to the community and our local politicians also got involved because they were trying to promote awareness among the community. So that way they get tested and don't get delayed in the care. That was a very busy time and also to report to the state.

Some systems have that direct interface with the state, but based on some other things, we had to report to the state in a different fashion. We had to work with the state for alternate routes — general dashboards, dashboards for internal communication and also we use another tool for ZIP-code-based focused analysis for the patients to see where they're coming from, where the COVID is more focused in these areas. We target in those areas to outreach to the community. We're proactive in educating the patients as well as partnering with the respect of physicians. Our leadership played a key role, especially our president. 

More articles on data analytics:
HHS awards TeleTracking 2nd $10.2M contract: 4 details
Minnesota health department email mishap exposes hundreds of COVID-19 patients' personal info
Texas spent millions on COVID-19 data system that isn't widely used: 5 details

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