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Analytics help data-driven decision-making during pandemic

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

by Cerner Corporation

Published on 7/7/2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Qatar, leaders at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) relied heavily on data and analytics to make informed decisions on everything from capacity management, establishing field hospitals, contact tracing and even catering services.

"Without the analytics, I think we would have been blind," said Ali Latif, MD, executive director, business intelligence. "We would have been in big trouble in terms of preparedness. The analytics told our leaders how much we needed to expand services, and I think it was crucial in responding well to the pandemic."

Numerous uses of analytics

With concerns of large numbers of patients needing care, HMC's business intelligence team began compiling data to provide leaders with direction on creating new isolation and quarantine facilities. Using Powerlnsight® from Cerner for its analytics, the team showed current occupancy at HMC's regular health facilities and field hospitals, and how much each facility needed to expand capacity for the expected demand. Predictive models developed in partnership with a local university helped calculate expected daily admissions and predict when the health system would likely discharge people.

"Our predictive models came from our data. We could have been in trouble early on because with information coming out of China, the estimate showed we needed 500 extra acute beds," Ali explained. "However, using our local data, the models quickly changed, and we needed four times that many beds. If we hadn't been collecting our own daily admissions, and studying the severity of people coming in, we would have faced problems."

Everyone needed data; even caterers needed reports to ensure the correct amount of food available for patients and staff in their new facilities. The business intelligence team built out three different reports to help them with their food preparation.

"We have a total of more than 100 reports that are published every single day," said Anvar Kaleeckal, assistant executive director, business intelligence. "They're all automated. Any manual work is now ad hoc."

Analytics utilized in contact tracing app

Data from the business intelligence unit drove the contact tracing app called Ehteraz, meaning precaution in English, which allowed authorities to trace and control the spread of the virus. The government required all residents to download the app, which tracks people and alerts them if they come in contact with infected people.

"We had to use different logic in that app, including the time of potential contact, the current location of the patient and the recovery status," said Kaleeckal. "All of these different variables were put together to create a status for a person. The app uses that data to tell the person if they should be quarantined, or if they were likely a healthy person. It also informs the Ministry of Public Health about which people they were in contact with in the days before they became positive."

Information distribution

The business intelligence team presents the information in a visually appealing way, using graphs to help leaders decide the best courses of action to take. HMC operates an incident command and control operations room where monitors display dashboards showcasing the analytics reports. Those reports help leaders make minute-to-minute decisions.

"It started with everyone wanting to see a live dashboard," said Kaleeckal. "At some point, I had close to 20 different locations with TV screens running dashboards; each of the locations had multiple viewers."

"We also fed this information via PDF to people's inboxes routinely," said Ali. “We felt some people wouldn't check a live dashboard, but they would consume a regular PDF."

Analytics in a post-COVID-19 world

HMC leaders expect to continue using detailed analytics to drive further decisions once the threat of COVID-19 subsides. Through fine-tuning, those tasked with creating the reports learned how to improve analytics and create more detailed reports quicker, moving forward.

"Before COVID-19 started, we could turn around simple reports within 48 or 72 hours. Complex reports took up to a week," said Kaleeckal. "Right now, my team's turnaround time for simple reports is within 30 minutes, and complex reports are done within a day."

"I think it's given the organization a taste for why analytics and data are important," Ali said. "There's been a lot more data-driven decision making in the organization than before. And if you weren't using the data, I think you'd have probably made some wrong decisions. It's a springboard to energize us."

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