As we continue the fight against COVID-19 and reflect on the pandemic response, it’s in our nature to look for opportunities to work together and help others. Indeed, we’ve seen numerous acts of heroism alongside tragic stories of loss.

In the research community, we are inspired by efforts to find new therapies and new policies to reduce the spread of the disease. To help support these efforts, The COVID-19 Research Database will make it easier to share and analyze COVID-19 data. The goal of the initiative is to improve research and help scientists find answers faster.

Finding COVID-19 answers in the data

Across the globe, researchers are working relentlessly to seek answers to some of the most compelling questions the pandemic poses, such as:

  • Which treatment pathways are most effective in treating the disease?
  • How can we stratify the population based on clinical risk for COVID-19 associated severe complications?
  • How can we identify candidates for vaccine and other pharmaceutical clinical trials?
  • What types of policy/program interventions can be made to ensure we are better prepared for future waves?

COVID-19 data challenges

Traditionally, the data to answer these questions can pose a number of challenges for research organizations.  Many of these research initiatives are operating in siloed environments, struggling to get timely access to comprehensive, reliable COVID-19 related data needed for finding faster answers.  Additionally, most organizations face other difficulties such as funding to procure data, severely limited use of data, issues with de-identification and privacy, and a hard time accessing medical records, claims, and prescription data all in one place.

While each research organization may have access to their own sources of data, the data they have is typically limited. Data challenges researchers encounter include:

  • Data covers only a small subset of the population.
  • Pre-COVID-19 clinical patient history is missing.
  • Only one type of data is available, such as administrative, claims or electronic health records, but not both or all three.
  • Information unrelated to COVID-19 is missing, such as data on other coronavirus or similar respiratory type illness.
  • Older data is not updated as new data becomes available.

In addition to these data-specific challenges, researchers also may not have access to more advanced data and analytic technologies to help process the data they do have. Many labs do not have the high-performance databases, data management, analytics and artificial intelligence technologies and cloud-based platforms that could help find answers more quickly.

Analytics benefits COVID-19 research

Access to these types of technologies and access to comprehensive, reliable and updated data all in on environment, means the potential for success grows significantly. Benefits include:

  • Improved collaboration between research organizations who may want to work collectively on similar questions and are now able to leverage the same data on the same platform using the same analytics technology.
  • Improved time-to-value from interacting with and learning from others on best practices, research and technical questions.
  • Broad ability to search and explore correlations in the latest data across multiple studies that would not be obvious in a single study.
  • Faster processing from high performance computing technologies.
  • Improved accuracy of research outcomes as a result of having more comprehensive, reliable data and high-quality analytics and AI technologies for analysis.
  • Improved monitoring/updating of research initiatives as a result of having access to routinely updated data

The COVID-19 Research Database brings top partners in healthcare and technology together to understand the disease and provide teams of researchers with free access to a wealth of patient data from across the United States.

SAS joins the project, along with Datavant, Medidata, Snowflake, HCCI, Change Healthcare, Veradigm, Helix and many more, to provide free access to potentially life-changing data, including comprehensive claims, electronic health records, pharmaceutical data and more, all in one common environment. As a partner and advisor in the initiative, SAS is providing the SAS Health solution on a cloud base computing environment free for each qualified researcher.

As we look to the future, the COVID-19 Research Database may prove to be an essential ingredient in the fight against COVID-19, bringing teams of researchers together in one common environment and using the most comprehensive, accurate data with the very best of data and analytic technologies, to do what they do best: find answers.

STAY INFORMED | COVID-19 resource hub

About Author

Jeremy Racine

Healthcare Strategy Consultant

Jeremy draws on more than 20 years of experience in data science to evangelize the benefits of advanced analytics – including AI – in health care. He helps lead SAS health care initiatives for data, AI and analytics, ensuring solutions align with health care market needs. He's passionate about applying analytics to health care modernization and executing new strategies within complex global health systems. Jeremy's work focuses on the essential interdependencies between healthcare policy, programs, and providers, payers and patients.

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