Through the Uncertainty of COVID-19, Data Leads the Way

Data analytics can help us understand the course of disease, decide best way forward
Data analyst sitting at computer
May 18, 2020
Vice President, Health Strategy and Innovation, CVS Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges for our nation and for those across the globe. Although the health care community is making promising progress in our fight against the virus, there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about the disease.

Can people become re-infected? What causes some individuals to be at higher risk than others? When will a vaccine be developed, or effective therapeutics be found? These are just several questions that remain unanswered — and this uncertainty is taking its toll.

From an economic standpoint, we’re seeing an unprecedented rise in furloughs, with more than 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits as of April 30. Our food production and supply chain are changing, too, and consumers are increasingly relying on delivery services to meet their needs.

The pandemic is also causing added isolation, stress, and anxiety. With so little known about COVID-19, people are unsure about the health of their loved ones, the longevity of their jobs and whether their kids will be returning to school in the fall. Health care professionals are grappling with the day-to-day care of their patients, while simultaneously preparing for a potential ‘second wave’ of the virus. And legislators are under pressure to determine how, and when, to reopen the country and economy safely.

Yet despite the mounting uncertainties, there’s an important tool we can leverage to gain more control over the current pandemic: Data.

In this period of ambiguity, data provides the knowledge and assurance the health care industry needs to understand where we are in the course of the outbreak, decide how to best help patients and, ultimately, guide us toward a way forward.

That’s why CVS Health has turned to data analytics with the goal of keeping the people we serve healthy and helping to flatten the curve.

Proactive Outreach to At-Risk Members

Since the outbreak reached the U.S., we’ve developed a new patient risk tool to help clinical and member service teams at Aetna, a CVS Health company, identify members at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19. The unique tool, which utilizes data from published clinical studies, Aetna claims data and publicly available COVID-19 tracking information, helps locate customers who live in areas with large numbers of COVID-19 cases and have medically complex conditions like diabetes and heart disease. This information directs the allocation of our telemedicine offerings, nurse case management and other patient resources to where they’re needed most.

Expanded Testing

We’re also expanding access to testing, which is the most important tool we have for managing the spread and extent of COVID-19. We’ve opened large-scale rapid testing sites in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Michigan. At all five of these locations, we’re using point-of-care testing that ensures patients receive their results within thirty minutes, thereby providing us with real-time data insights to inform our response to a rapidly evolving situation.

Additionally, we’re enhancing testing capabilities in areas with the greatest unmet need. Our newest site in Dearborn, Michigan, is establishing equitable access to testing in underserved communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Industry Knowledge Sharing

Taken together, the various data we’re collecting across the enterprise is extremely valuable for assessing when we’re beginning to turn the tide on tackling the disease. But what makes real progress possible is the ability to effectively act on this data through industry-wide collaboration.

As a New York City-based physician living in one of the hardest-hit regions of the country, I have been proud to witness the exceptional partnership occurring between scientists and clinicians worldwide during this time. Sharing learnings, best practices and evidence-based findings about COVID-19 is allowing us to develop a deeper understanding of the virus, glean new insights about the pandemic and how best to treat the infection, and support decisions about how to appropriately re-open our cities and states.

Looking ahead, I’m hopeful that this pairing of data insights with a heightened level of clinical collaboration may be our new normal, both in the management of future diseases as well as broader issues facing our health care system. By collaborating with a common purpose in mind, I not only believe we can overcome this pandemic, but that we will also emerge on the other side as a stronger, more unified health care community.

Originally published on LinkedIN Pulse

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May 18, 2020
Vice President, Health Strategy and Innovation, CVS Health