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COVID-19 proved real-time data is the key to innovation


Healthcare is a known laggard when it comes to implementing new technologies. And the U.S. healthcare system isn’t exactly known for its data transparency, either. 

But the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic pulled technology and real-time data into the spotlight. Providers rushed to treat patients and limit the spread of COVID-19. Telemedicine use exploded to ensure remote healthcare access and reduce the impacts of delayed care. 

To power these innovations, data aggregators partnered with governmental organizations and healthcare providers. These organizations created real-time dashboards to improve data visualization. Interactive and open-source platforms like these can make it easier to fuel innovation. We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting uses of real-time data in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Mapping COVID-19 cases and deaths

In the U.S., COVID-19 spread quickly and almost uncontrollably. Part of combating the pandemic meant finding the highest-risk patient populations. Providers used this data to target outreach and prevention activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a national COVID data tracker. The dashboard includes trended cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by county. What makes the CDC map unique is the inclusion of social determinants of health.

Users can filter by demographic trends and patient risk factors. Some risk factors include pregnancy and association with correctional facilities. This map includes COVID vaccination rates as of January 2021.

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) also hosts a global COVID-19 dashboard. The JHU map features COVID-19 recoveries as well as cases and mortality volumes. For the U.S., the JHU dashboard includes a map of testing rates by state. This offers a unique view into regional proactive measures.

The Starbucks bathroom surprise

I know it sounds weird but hear me out. In early 2020, the coffee chain leveraged user data to create a dashboard. The goal was to highlight how COVID-19 affected customer experience.

The most interesting part of the Starbucks model is a customer quirk they found. Many customers stopped at a Starbucks to use the bathroom and then bought a snack or beverage. COVID-related sanitation concerns meant that Starbucks closed bathrooms to the public.

Data analysts realized that stores needed a fast and easy way to share data with customers. Including whether the bathrooms were open. This was a simple way to assist customers and improve their experiences.

Hospital and healthcare leaders are consistently aiming to improve patient experiences. Hospitals could create similar dashboards to determine key areas of improvement. Data taken during intake and discharge procedures is often accessible for hospital leaders. This could mean parking lot check-ins, or expanding telemedicine offerings.

This kind of amenity sharing could be especially valuable now, during vaccine distribution. Patients can find pharmacies offering COVID-19 testing. They should also be able to find locations that offer COVID-19 vaccines.

Hospital capacity predictor

Definitive Healthcare partnered with Esri to create the COVID-19 Capacity Predictor. This interactive dashboard highlights hospital ICU bed capacity across the U.S.

Users can sort counties by case volume, ICU bed capacity, and ventilator capacity. This allows them to pinpoint the areas at greatest risk of patient overload. The dashboard is particularly useful for pinpointing hospitals in need of extra staffing. It can also enable public health officials to allocate funding and resources.

Definitive updates its capacity predictor as new data becomes available. Users have the option of drawing insights from March 2020 through the present.

At the time of publishing, most hospitals in Colorado reported being at ICU bed capacity. This is also true of the following states, though this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Connecticut
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia

COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the country. Only about three percent of the population is fully vaccinated as of February 2021. In addition, new COVID-19 variants from the UK and South Africa pose ongoing risks to U.S. patients.

These new factors indicate that hospital capacity will not be returning to normal for quite some time. Until then, hospital leaders will be looking to maximize resources.

Learn more

Are you looking for more information about how COVID-19 is driving healthcare innovation? Watch our on-demand webinar, COVID-19 As a Digital Transformer:  Telehealth Accelerates & There’s No Looking Back.

In this webinar, three esteemed panelists discuss:

  • What virtual care looks like during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic
  • What changes in telehealth restrictions mean for patients and providers
  • How digital expansion in healthcare can accommodate a virtual care model
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Definitive Healthcare

This blog was written by a former contributor at Definitive Healthcare. At Definitive Healthcare, our passion is to transform data, analytics and expertise into healthcare…

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