Chicago Launches New Data Analytics Tool in Fight Against COVID-19

Partnership with Rush University Medical Center provides a robust system for tracking COVID-19 cases, while enhancing the ability to identify trends and mitigate risk

COVID-19 December 4, 2020
Doctors working in Rush's Brennan Pavilion

The Chicago Department of Public Health, in partnership with Rush University Medical Center, today launched a comprehensive data resource hub to centralize hospital information to aid in the fight against COVID-19.

This initiative is a new approach to data reporting and informatics gathering and provides CDPH with a robust system for tracking COVID-19 cases, while significantly enhancing the ability to identify trends and mitigate risk throughout the city.

“The ongoing threat to public health that COVID-19 presents has inspired a new level of collaboration between the Chicago’s many health care organizations,” said CDPH commissioner Allison Arwady, MD. “As a result, we have done in a few months what would have taken years to do before. By streamlining reporting of common data sets, we have a much better understanding of which hospitals are treating COVID-19 patients and how it is spreading across different groups.”

Tool 'will save lives'

Now fully operational, the tool pulls CDPH-mandated data into a common platform. Reports are being completed and input by all 28 Chicago-area hospitals and include three key data sets:

  • Electronic lab reporting, which tracks every COVID-19 test administered in Chicago
  • Consolidated clinical document architecture, where data is pulled from Epic System-enabled sites, which provides a depth of information that has not previously been connected to public health initiatives
  • COVID-19 capacity model, which monitors hospital bed counts across the city in near real time.

“Not only does this help us to better understand the spread, it also empowers us to better match patients with the places that can most effectively treat them,” said Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO of Rush University Medical Center, where the health information will be stored and analyzed for CDPH. “Not all hospitals have the same resources, and being better able to match patients with clinical capabilities will save lives.”

“We were fortunate to be able to pull together a group of national leaders, including the primary author of HIPAA, to develop a robust platform that protects health records while informing decision-making with science,” said Dr. Nicholas Soulakis, CDPH's chief public health informatics adviser. “To date, we have collected more than 70,000 unique results that are already giving us never-before-available insights that we hope will prove invaluable.”

Value beyond COVID-19

A mere 30 days in the making, the agile platform has multiple pathways to share critical data, in order to inform hospital and civic leaders through a core set of dashboards. Researchers plan to use the data to look at various trends, including health equity and the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on communities of color, while also examining the co-morbidity and age distribution differences within them.

“Thanks to the health care heroes across our community, as well as state and local leadership in flattening the curve, Chicago hospitals have not yet become overwhelmed,” Soulakis said. “However, as we forecast out and plan for other possible COVID-19 surges, this tool will tell us immediately how taxed the Chicago hospital network is and help guide our response.”

“We are currently working to secure a federal grant that will help to further enhance reporting and ultimately inform how a potential vaccine could lead to immunization registries, like those that exist for children,” said Dr. Bala Hota, chief analytics officer at Rush University Medical Center. “Ultimately it is our hope that this tool will help us identify new hot spots or even new syndromes. It also has the potential to be an infrastructure model that helps us better combat chronic disease and major causes of morbidity.”

“The value of this tool will go far beyond COVID-19,” Arwady said. “The collaboration that went into creating this will have a long-lasting effect, as it will be used as the foundation for integrating data rapidly for future waves of new pandemic responses.”

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