How Mass General Brigham is extracting, sharing data from EHR for COVID-19 research 

Boston-based Mass General Brigham assigned a team of researchers to comb through COVID-19 patient data in the EHR, a process that can take up to eight hours for a single patient, before sending it off to global researchers, according to STAT.

Ann Woolley, MD, an infectious disease physician at Mass General Brigham who leads one of the health system's COVID-19 patient data teams, assembled a team of eight research assistants for the project. Over the past several weeks, the team has manually sorted through patient record charts for data including demographics, risk factors, exposures, medications and chest scans.

Mass General Brigham's biobank partnered with international consortium of genetics researchers COVID-19 Host Genetics Initiative. Health system researchers compile the COVID-19 patient data and upload it to a software program that converts the data to a binary format for the genetic researchers in the consortium. The initiative comprises more than 150 programs similar to Mass General Brigham's.

The health system has shared genetic data from 108 COVID-19 patients as well as data from more than 31,000 controls who are believed to not be infected but have not yet been tested, according to the report. The control individuals had previously volunteered to have a blood sample collected and their data analyzed by Mass General Brigham's biobank, so their information was already on file.

"As the numbers mount, the way that a DNA biobank is tied into an EHR is extraordinarily powerful for teasing apart all sorts of questions about clinical phenomenology, pathophysiology, and eventually even treatment possibilities," said Robert Green, MD, a medical geneticist and physician at Mass General Brigham who is also helping lead the project.

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