How data is driving one health system’s pandemic response in Northeast Indiana

You see it in news stories, hear it in conversations, learn about it during press conferences. For the last nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been surrounded by data. And, for good reason.

Simply put, “Data is powerful,” explains Dr. Mark Pierce, Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Parkview Health.

Pierce leads one of two teams that have been collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to aid in Parkview Health’s pandemic response. Tammy Toscos, Director of Health Services and Informatics Research at the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation, leads another team of data scientists and researchers.

Together, they’ve provided data to support not only Parkview Health, but also other organizations in the community throughout the pandemic.

Business Intelligence

Pierce’s Business Intelligence team regularly gathers and analyzes data that can help in the delivery of care. For example, a tool they developed pre-pandemic, called the Deterioration Index, uses predictive analytics to alert providers if a patient is at higher risk for a serious health event, prompting them to take preventive measures. When the pandemic hit, this tool was rapidly validated for COVID-19 patients and provided care teams needed warning prior to clinical deterioration.

During the pandemic, this team has also created multiple dashboards that allow Parkview leaders to monitor key operational metrics, including resource utilization, hospital beds, and staffing. They’ve also tracked key patient data, such as length-of-stay and ventilator use. The data is continuously updated and analyzed to support clinical and operational decisions.

“Those dashboards give Parkview’s Incident Command Center the ability to see where we are, anticipate where we’re going, and understand if we’re prepared,” says Pierce. “We’re creating not just dashboards, but tools that help us understand trends.”

Informatics and Research

Toscos’s team uses data not only from Pierce’s team, but also from other resources to provide a clearer picture of what’s happening in the health system and in communities throughout the region during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the onset of the pandemic, they launched a Community Needs Assessment, which helped local government agencies, schools, and philanthropic groups understand how they could support residents during the initial shutdown and ongoing response.

Results from the Community Needs Assessment, which helped local government agencies, schools, and philanthropic groups understand how they could support residents during the initial pandemic shutdown and ongoing response.

They also started tracking data from publicly available sources, such as the Indiana Department of Health, to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the community. By better understanding activity in Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio, they could begin to see how it might impact the health system.

A third way Toscos’s team has used data is with “surge modeling,” which is a method to forecast hospitalizations for COVID-19. Toscos explains that, at the beginning of the pandemic, the team relied on epidemiological models and assumptions based on literature and health system history. In September, however, they were able to use Parkview’s own data, collected by Pierce’s team from the start of the pandemic, to create a new model.

“This required a high-level skillset,” Toscos says, “We’re lucky to have skilled data scientists to build that predictive model from scratch.” She believes Parkview is the only health system in Indiana to create their own predictive data model. The model is regularly updated and shared with leaders to make decisions around staffing, supplies, and other needs.

Most recently, the informatics team assisted with Parkview’s vaccine clinic, which opened Dec. 14, as part of the Indiana Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Partnering with Parkview’s Process Improvement and Simulation Teams, they created detailed timing for each stage of the vaccination process, from screening to registration, to post-injection observation.

“The computerized simulation tool we created will be used by clinic leadership to understand how they need to staff the clinic on any given day,” Toscos says. The simulation may even help other hospitals plan and manage their clinics as the vaccine is distributed across the state.

Parkview's informatics team assisted with Parkview’s vaccine clinic, which opened Dec. 14, as part of the Indiana Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.

Pivoting

While no one could have predicted a pandemic, Parkview leaders understood the need to invest in data when they began building these teams several years ago.

“Parkview Health had great leadership and vision in investment in research, innovation, and business intelligence, so we were here when it was needed,” Toscos says.

Pierce agrees.

“These are folks that had been working on other high-value projects, but like many people, had to pivot to where they were needed,” he says. “This is our job, and these are the talents that we bring to Parkview every single day. It just so happens that in the last 240-plus days, it’s been about responding to a health care crisis.”

This story was made possible by Parkview Health.

Signup for Email Alerts