U-M experts leverage the power of data, innovative research and health policy expertise to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the COVID-19 virus began to overwhelm the world in the early months of 2020, many researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation (IHPI) pivoted their work to support the global effort to understand and respond to the virus.
In the year and a half since, IHPI researchers have developed tools to aggregate and share COVID-19-related health data locally and globally. Others have analyzed massive datasets to track the spread of the virus, identify treatment options, inform public health leaders, assess health disparities and more.
Together with the broader scientific community, U-M researchers have continually leveraged data to share timely evidence, insights, tools, and guidelines that address pressing questions related to the pandemic.
Sharing data to inform the quality of care for hospitalized COVID-19 patients
Early in the pandemic, when information about the virus was only just emerging, researchers banded together to create interactive databases to amass COVID-19-related health data and ensure quality care for hospitalized patients.
One of the U-M databases, the COVID-19 Rapid Response Registry, harnessed COVID-19 treatment and outcomes data from an international consortium of 488 health care organizations in 37 countries. The data shared through this collective consortium helped physicians and researchers around the world quickly analyze COVID-19 treatment trends to inform patient care in close to real-time.
Another database, the Mi-COVID19 Initiative, was developed by a network of 40 hospitals across the state of Michigan based on a framework created by Michigan Medicine critical care physicians. This collaborative network and database made it possible to collect, analyze and share data from thousands of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and apply the findings almost immediately to the way care was delivered in hospitals across the state. According to recent findings published in several medical journals, the reduced variations in COVID-19 care in Michigan, helping to lower the risk of death for hospitalized patients.
Tracking COVID-19 spread and informing public health responses
Also in the early days of the pandemic, epidemiologists and statisticians at U-M developed COVID-19 modeling and tracking tools to provide data-driven projections of pandemic spread and the potential impact on populations. Such projections have played an important role in informing government and business throughout the pandemic.
A team of U-M epidemiologists, statisticians, and computer engineers, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, developed a series of online dashboards to inform pandemic public health responses in Michigan. One of the public tools, MI Safe Start Map, tracks and displays current COVID-19 risk levels in Michigan regions and counties, helping individuals, employers, school administrators, and organizational leaders make data-informed decisions to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.
U-M experts have also supported COVID-19 modeling efforts overseas. As one example, the COV-IND-19 Study Group, a research team at the School of Public Health, built real-time data tracking tools to visualize and quantify the spread of the virus in India, to help authorities strategize interventions and the general public manage personal risk.
Examining and addressing the pandemic’s broader impact
Through analysis of large data sets, IHPI researchers are assessing health care costs and health equity in the COVID-19 era, as well as the short- and long-term mental, emotional, and physical effects of the pandemic among various populations.
Over the past year, the U-M National Poll on Healthy Aging, sponsored by AARP and Michigan Medicine and directed by IHPI, has asked people aged 50-80 about how the pandemic may have impacted alcohol use, mental health, loneliness, perspectives on COVID-19 vaccines, and more.
Other work has explored the financial implications of severe COVID-19. A recent study examining public and private health insurance data found that Americans who were hospitalized for COVID-19 might have to pay thousands of dollars in bills from their hospitals, doctors and ambulance companies.
Several IHPI experts are also focused on understanding health disparities that were exacerbated by the pandemic. According to one study, deaths from all causes combined increased dramatically early in the COVID-19 pandemic for certain demographic groups in the U.S.—particularly for Black and Hispanic people, and among people without health insurance, those with incomes below the poverty line, and those in occupations with limited work-from-home options.
These are just a few of the many studies, tools, and resources developed by IHPI researchers to better understand and find solutions for the impacts of COVID-19. As the pandemic evolves, they will continue to amass data and engage in innovative research to inform both health policy and practice.