More alike than different: Two health systems share their COVID-19 response


What do two health systems, 4000 miles apart (6600 kilometers) have in common in their COVID-19 response?  Despite different policy responses to the pandemic, they are more alike than you might think.

Brought together by SAS and the FutureNHS COVID-19 analytics huddle, these two health systems recently shared their experience of how analytics has guided their operational response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cleveland Clinic models coronavirus admission rates

Cleveland Clinic began reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak in January at weekly hospital operations committee meetings. By March they had activated an Incident Command Center and had seen the first COVID-19 positive patient admission. Limited COVID-19 testing at the time meant projections were based on data from countries further ahead in the curve. Cleveland Clinic utilized their advanced analytics and modeling team, as well as a dashboard and reporting team to build a COVID-19 information environment that could evolve in real time and provide up to date information on the pandemic to leadership. They focused on three questions:

  • How many people in our community are infected?
  • What is the symptomatic vs. asymptomatic percentages?
  • What are the admission rates for the infected populations?

The analytics team decided to always present several possible outcomes to Cleveland Clinic’s medical operations leadership team, following the “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” strategy. The models show inflection points based on policy or behavioral changes.  The epidemiological projection curve shows new growth curves sprouting from each predicted break points – so one curve became 3, and then 3 became 9. It became known as the “hydra curve” and quickly became a key leadership communication tool.

Region Stockholm models staffing and equipment needs

In a similar way, Region Stockholm who provide health care for 2.3 million inhabitants, utilized the outputs of multiple modeling techniques to inform their decision making. Their first case of COVID-19 was confirmed Feb 27, but that number rose quickly over the next three months, exceeding twelve thousand by the end of May 2020.

To accommodate the additional patients, they paused most elective care and focused on optimizing staffing and equipment in response to the pandemic. Using analytical insights on anticipated hospitalizations, they rapidly built a 600 bed field hospital and quadrupled overall ICU bed capacity in the region. Their dashboards highlighted not only overall analysis of the COVID-19 situation, but also displaced care, care debt and new care needs.  All of these are important health services metrics to be considered as systems reopen to allow for non-COVID care.

Both Cleveland Clinic and Region Stockholm shared how they utilized a variety of data inputs to project the spread of infection, then modeled the operational response required for each scenario.  In addition to epidemiological projections, both organizations relied on analytics and visualizations to support:

  • Daily bed planning.
  • “Right-sizing” expanded facilities.
  • Monitoring of virtual care visits.
  • Quantifying future care “debt.”

Responding to COVID-19 with SAS

SAS has been honored to support our customers like Cleveland Clinic and Region Stockholm during this unprecedented public health crisis. For many health care providers, our long-standing partnership was a key part of their ability to rapidly respond and iterate in the face of daily changing information. Investments in people, processes, and technology were the foundations for data-driven decisions before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Future NHS COVID-19 analytics Huddle, SAS also shared its perspective along with a short demonstration of how technology can augment contact tracing for public health.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, rigorous, timely and reliable contact tracing will inform governments when it's safe to begin reopening society and drive economic recovery, while monitoring and alerting authorities to the potential reemergence of outbreaks.

If you would like to access all of the presentation materials, you can join the open forum hosted by FutureNHS by following these steps:

  1. Send an email to: requesting access to the Data and Analytics Support for Covid-19 workspace to view materials from the May 28 huddle with Cleveland Clinic and Region Stockholm.
  2. Watch for an email reply with an invitation to create a profile on the Future NHS platform.
  3. Once you have registered, view specific materials from this huddle here. 

LEARN MORE | COVID-19 Resource Hub


About Author

Alyssa Farrell

Advisory Industry Marketing Manager, SAS

Alyssa Farrell leads industry marketing for the SAS Global Health and Life Sciences Practice. In this role, she focuses on the SAS solutions that help optimize health outcomes for individuals and their communities. Alyssa is actively engaged in analyst relations, market research and influencer marketing to stay on top of industry trends and align SAS capabilities to customer needs. She has also supported the global energy and public sector teams during her career at SAS. Prior to joining SAS in 2004, Alyssa was a senior consultant in the Deloitte Public Sector practice. She earned her MBA degree with a concentration in Management Information Systems from the University of Arizona. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Duke University. Follow Alyssa on Twitter @alyssa_farrell and LinkedIn at

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