07.07.2020
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NIH launches platform for nationwide coronavirus patient data

NIH launches platform for nationwide coronavirus patient data

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Monday a new “centralized, secure enclave” of medical record data from coronavirus patients diagnosed nationwide.

The analytics platform is part of a new effort called the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C), to help scientists analyze data to understand the disease and develop treatments, according to a press release.

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“This effort aims to transform clinical information into knowledge urgently needed to study COVID-19, including health risk factors that indicate better or worse outcomes of the disease, and identify potentially effective treatments,” NIH wrote.

The new platform is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is part of the NIH. It will systematically collect clinical, laboratory and diagnostic data from health care provider organizations across the country. The NIH will aggregate and harmonize the information into a standard format readily available for use by researchers and health care providers.

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The platform was created to help scientists analyze data to understand COVID-19 and develop treatments. (iStock)

The platform was created to help scientists analyze data to understand COVID-19 and develop treatments. (iStock)

The NIH says access to the data will help researchers and health care providers answer clinically important questions, like, “Can we predict who might need dialysis because of kidney failure?” or “Are there different patient responses to coronavirus infection that require distinct therapies?”

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“NCATS initially supported the development of this innovative collaborative technology platform to speed the process of understanding the course of diseases, and identifying interventions to effectively treat them,” said Dr. Christopher Austin, NCATS director. “This platform was deployed to stand up this important COVID-19 effort in a matter of weeks, and we anticipate that it will serve as the foundation for addressing future public health emergencies.”

The data is being provided to NCATS as a Limited Data Set (LDS) that retains only two of 18 HIPAA-defined elements: health care provider zip code and dates of service.

The effort is said to involve multiple security and privacy measures to protect patient data. (iStock)

The effort is said to involve multiple security and privacy measures to protect patient data. (iStock)

NCATS is reportedly taking multiple security and privacy measures. The data is said to remain in NCATS’ secure, cloud-based database certified through the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program [FedRAMP] to ensure the validity of the data while protecting patient privacy.

The N3C data will be used only for COVID-19 research purposes, including clinical and translational research and public health surveillance.

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As of Monday, there were 35 collaborating sites across the country and the platform contains diverse data from individuals tested for COVID-19. The single, common format is said to enable combined ‘apples to apples’ analyses, which was difficult to achieve previously because hospitals stored patient data in different ways.

The NIH said contributing sites add demographics, symptoms, medications, lab test results, and outcome data regularly over a five-year period, allowing for immediate and long-term study.

The platform is built to enable machine learning approaches and rigorous statistical analyses, identifying connections and patterns more quickly than can be done through traditional methodologies, according to the release. Of course, robust sample sizes are ideal when seeking precise, significant results.

“The exciting transformation this platform represents is in providing an environment where data and the power of the analytics can be used by researchers and clinicians to quickly examine and answer new COVID-19 hypotheses,” said Warren A. Kibbe, chief of Translational Biomedical Informatics in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics and chief data officer for the Duke Cancer Institute.

For more information, visit covid.cd2h.org

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