Getting an overall picture of the COVID-19 pandemic

With 14 hospitals, more than 350 clinics and several millions of patient interactions every year, OSF HealthCare leaders wanted the ability to easily track novel coronavirus activity as the disease made its way to Illinois. That included everything from the number of individuals with COVID-19 to how many patients were on ventilators. But that information wasn’t initially easy to come by.

“We were probably looking at six or seven different patient volume models from various sources when we first started this work in February,” said Dr. Mike Cruz, chief operating officer of OSF HealthCare, chief executive officer of the Central Region and lead of the Emergency Operations Center. “We not only needed much more information, we also needed it to be specific to our organization.”

Working with Healthcare Analytics, a COVID Surveillance Dashboard was created in March that shows a variety of activities related to the virus in every area OSF HealthCare serves. That allows leaders to keep track of virus trends across the Ministry and ensure resources are matched with demand.

COVID Surveillance Dashboard

Updated daily, the COVID Surveillance Dashboard is broken into four sections. The first tracks information on confirmed and suspected cases of the virus, including patient volumes, hospitalizations, deaths, recoveries and lab tests.

“It also collects data on digital health activity,” said Bryan Kaiser, director of Analytics and Reporting. “This includes the number of people who are screened through the OSF Digital Health Call Center and how many clients are taking advantage of our Pandemic Health Worker and Acute COVID@ Home programs.”

The second section visualizes the OSF Pandemic Impact Model, which predicts the spread of COVID-19 across Illinois over the next several weeks, including where patients live, if they will require general hospital care or ICU care and the percentage of COVID patients who will seek care at OSF HealthCare facilities. The third shows how many people are making or canceling appointments with the organization. And the fourth includes how many COVID tests have been completed statewide as well as cases and deaths separated by county.

One source of truth

“Our dashboard not only allows users to see how may COVID-19 patients there are on a day by day basis at all of our sites, it also graphs out all of this information over time to get a better look at growth trends,” said Kaiser. “Cumulatively, you want to know the impact of COVID on our communities; whereas, understanding who is currently ill is important from an operational or resource perspective.”

The COVID Surveillance Dashboard acts as one source of truth for the Emergency Operations Center to make decisions on behalf of the health care system without getting lost in the data. It also adds flexibility and speed to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

“As a result, we can efficiently determine how to deploy the right resources to the right locations,” said Dr. Cruz. “Maybe that means sending additional staff to a hospital that’s treating an overwhelming number of COVID patients. Perhaps, it means transferring resources, such as ventilators or medications from a site with a low census to one that’s seeing an uptick. Our goal is to optimize care in each of our service areas.”

Winter is coming

While shelter-at-home orders, social distancing measures and requests to wear masks in public are helping reduce the spread of COVID-19, the virus isn’t going anywhere any time soon. In fact, it’s very conceivable health care systems will likely have to deal with both the novel coronavirus and regular flu season this winter.

“We think it would be shortsighted to think we will only be managing cases of the flu later this year. That means it’s possible we will have the same demands on supplies, places and people we are experiencing with this pandemic,” said Dr. Cruz. “The various models we are using now to track the virus and its activity across the organization ensures we will have a handle on any future outbreaks.”

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