Chicago COVID Coalition Develops a COVID-19 Database

The Chicago COVID Coalition, a collaborative network of researchers across Chicago, is working to develop a Common Data Model (CDM), or standardized database, to allow for rapid automated presentation of data to public health organizations and researchers. William Trick, MD, Director of the Collaborative Research Unit at Cook County Health, and Daniel Schneider, MS, Manager of Research Analytics at Northwestern Medicine Enterprise Data Warehouse (NMEDW) at Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS), are leading the effort to develop the Chicago COVID Coalition CDM.

The goal of any common data model is to provide a template for separate healthcare institutions to represent the clinical data from their respective electronic health records (EHRs) with the same structure and terminologies. This process allows for efficient aggregation of data across healthcare data systems by translating disparate data structures and representations of medical concepts into a common format. For example, health care systems may enter a diagnosis of COVID 19 into their electronic health record (EHR) system using different formats. When the CDM formatting is applied, these records can be securely aggregated across systems to show a more complete picture of disease prevalence across Chicago.

“The CDM allows for rapid and efficient presentation of data to public health entities and researchers through automated processes,” William Trick, MD, explained. “Public health [organizations] will be able to process information about cases in a timely manner that can provide them with the knowledge needed to focus interventions precisely in neighborhoods experiencing a high burden of cases.”

Thus far, the Chicago COVID Coalition has successfully established the CDM at select sites. These sites will share data with the data hub, CAPriCORN, which will then create the analytic dataset and transmit it to public health entities.

The biggest challenges with creating the Chicago COVID Coalition’s CDM have been the lack of resources available during the pandemic and the vital—but often complicated and extensive—establishment of agreements to protect patient information.

“We have been building the CDM without additional resources, so it has been a challenge finding individuals who have the time to devote to this project,” said Dr. Trick. “Also, to protect patient privacy, we are working with individuals at each site to ensure that the appropriate agreements and protections are in place for sharing data.”

Once in place, the Chicago COVID Coalition’s Common Data Model will benefit individuals and communities: researchers will be able to identify high-risk individuals based on past clinical diagnoses and evaluate novel therapies to improve patient outcomes.

The Chicago COVID Coalition is a wide-ranging research collaboration across Northwestern’s Chicago and Evanston campuses and many partner organizations. The Coalition was initiated as a joint response from leaders at Northwestern Medicine, AllianceChicago, the Cook County Health System, and Rush University Medical Center to mobilize a large network of people and organizations aimed at developing shared data infrastructure, rapid analytics, and broad communications that support surveillance and preparedness for the COVID pandemic in Chicago.

The Coalition works in close coordination with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), with additional technical support by MRAIA for data sharing and alignment with related initiatives and to ensure the prioritization of efforts that directly serve public health.

Join the collaboration! Interdisciplinary teams are critical to address this urgent challenge. Visit the Chicago COVID Coalition website here.

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