BBJ: Here’s how Baltimore, Hopkins, UMMS and CareFirst are fighting Covid-19 with data

By Morgan Eichensehr 
April 28, 2020

The Baltimore City Health Department is working closely with some of the largest local players in the health care industry to track and share data that could prove critical in the city’s fight against Covid-19.

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the city’s health commissioner, said Baltimore has been working to compile up-to-date data that can help the partners understand how coronavirus is spreading and how the city can best direct limited resources, including test kits and hospital equipment. Similar efforts have been ongoing at the state and federal levels, but Dzirasa said the city level is necessary to help the partners better confront Baltimore’s unique challenges, like its densely populated neighborhoods, and large homeless and low-income populations.

Dzirasa joined Matt Gallagher, CEO of grant-making organization the Goldseker Foundation, as well as the CEOs of Hopkins, UMMS and CareFirst, to discuss the progress and purpose of the ongoing data collection efforts during a webinar event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee April 28.

To date, the city’s public Covid-19 data dashboard has reported confirmed Covid-19 cases by ZIP code, with breakdowns by sex, race and age group. Additional data sets were made publicly available April 28.

Coronavirus testing data by ZIP code

Gallagher said it is important to understand how the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in a given area compares to testing availability. For example, he noted that 13,000 coronavirus tests have been run for city residents so far. Though it may sound like a lot of people, that figure represents only about 2% of the city’s entire population, he noted.

Combining confirmed cases and testing data will help the city and health organization identify “hotspots,” or areas where there may be particularly large outbreaks, so they can direct resources to those areas to help contain and combat infections.

The data will also help to highlight the need for additional testing resources. Three public testing sites have been set up around the city, but Gallagher said testing capacity continues to be very limited and the vast majority of local testing continues to take place at hospitals. Baltimore is only receiving about 100 test kits per week to use at its three public testing sites, he said, and the public testing sites are not able to run every day.

Hospital bed utilization

The city partners are working to track the availability of intensive care beds and ventilators reported by the city’s 11 hospitals. Gallagher said this kind of real time capacity data will help the hospitals “stay ahead of the need,” and direct patients and shared resources where they are most needed.

Additional new data sets also show how many confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported at city nursing homes, virus-related mortality rates and how many meals have been distributed to Baltimore’s residents in need.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, CEO of UMMS, said he thinks these efforts represent a “real model” for how data can be used to combat coronavirus around the nation.

“The more we are able to understand where our hotspots are and the way we can address them proactively, that’s the way we will be able to ensure that we come through the back side of this crisis collectively in a strong position,” Suntha said.

To read the full story, visit the Baltimore Business Journal’s website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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