Why Northwell is adding to its data science capabilities and team

Data drove New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health's ability to respond to the pandemic earlier this year, and it will rely on more sophisticated data analytics this fall as it prepares for another surge of COVID-19 cases.

Northwell is the largest health system in New York and had the ability to load-balance its hospitals based on data coming from each facility. The health system set up a centralized logistics center and moved patients from one hospital to the next to make sure no single hospital was over-crowded. Patients moved from one facility to the next as they met clinical stability requirements for transfer.

"We did that day in and day out throughout the crisis so we could keep our hospitals from being overrun," said CIO John Bosco. "That effort was driven by data. We have a lot of predictive analytics to help estimate the surges, how long patients will be in the hospital and whether they will need a ventilator based on past medical history. That helped us understand the level of severity of COVID-19 and the type of activity to expect."

Mr. Bosco and his team developed a bio-surveillance tool that could then give early indications of a resurgence. The tool examines all types of data coming into the emergency room in real time and includes New York State data and other external data.

"Using internal data from ERs and employees as well as external information, we developed a data tool that looks at indicators and will give early warnings that things are picking up steam," he said. "The tool tells us where things are getting worse, so we can respond more quickly

Prior to the pandemic, Northwell already had a small team of data scientist, but Mr. Bosco said he recognized a need for even more. "We realized that we didn't have as much capability or resources as we would have liked to have in data science," he said. "That is one area that needs to get beefed up. We have a significant analytics team today. The pandemic pointed out the need to develop certain information on a real-time basis that we didn't know we would need."

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