HCA Healthcare is building a tool to make it easier for hospitals across the U.S. to share information about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Called the Covid-19 National Response Portal, the platform will allow hospitals to share data on ICU bed supply and ventilator supply, as well as aggregated information on Covid-19 test results and the total number of healthy patients who have been discharged.

Los-Angeles based technology consulting company SADA will develop the platform, which will run on Google Cloud. The goal is to help hospitals understand where they are on the curve, when they will see a plateau in cases, and make sure they have the needed resources in place, said Michael Ames, senior director of healthcare and life sciences for SADA.

“We can’t predict what’s going to happen at an individual facility. But if we pool that data, and we back it up with public data sources, we can start to build predictions about what’s going to happen at the county level in aggregate,” Ames said in a phone interview. “We can combine that with predictions that in the end provide insights that hospital administrators can act on.”

The project will start using aggregated data from HCA’s 185 hospitals. The healthcare giant said it had invited groups representing 4,000 hospitals across the U.S. to share data on the platform.

“As healthcare providers, we are all battling the same crisis,” Michael Wargo, vice president of emergency preparedness at HCA, said in a news release. “However, we are being faced with COVID-19 at different times and levels of severity. By pooling our data into one cohesive platform, we can share best practices to better prepare communities across the country for this unprecedented pandemic.”

The idea for the project started with Dr. Edmond Jackson, chief data science officer at HCA. He had approached Google, knowing they would have the resources to build a portal at the national scale. Google then approached SADA, which is a preferred partner for Google Cloud and had a prior history of mapping out healthcare data. Ames said HCA provided input and direction on the project.

The portal is being rolled out in phases, starting with information on hospitals’ available resources and the number of local cases.

“There are certainly challenges in bringing together something of this scale as quickly as we are attempting to do,” Ames said. “The Covid-19 problem is so big that it is tempting to try to create something that may solve every problem for everybody, but that’s just not possible. We have to make sure we are focused, that we are solving the right most urgent problems first while laying the foundation to continue to solve other problems down the road.”

In the long run, after the current pandemic ends, Ames said the system was designed so that it could be useful in monitoring infectious diseases. So when the next flu season comes around, or the next pandemic, hospitals will have the tool at the ready.

Ames said the portal is quick to implement and is ready to start ingesting data now. The only challenge is that hospitals must compile the data themselves before sharing it.

This is a privacy measure, requiring hospitals to aggregate the data to the point where it is HIPAA complaint before they submit it. The portal won’t receive any information about individual patients, but only aggregated counts of Covid-19 positive or negative cases at the zip code or county level, Ames said.

Additionally, Ames clarified that the data won’t flow to third parties — including Google — without additional consent from healthcare organizations.

For busy facilities, the platform can at minimum take in the data that hospitals are required to supply to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Hopefully for that effort that they’re expending, they’ll get back data that is immediately useful to them,” Ames said.

In the coming weeks, HCA and SADA also hope to make this information accessible to the general public, to help people get a better picture of what is happening in their communities.

Photo Credit: wigglestick, Getty Images

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