Thursday, April 16, 2020

USA College of Medicine researcher launches COVID-19 data project

USA Health providers test patients for COVID-19 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
A public health researcher at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine is compiling data that could provide insights into COVID-19 symptoms, the spread of the infection, and its impact on Mobile-area residents.

Casey L. Daniel, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, said the patient data being collected at USA Health clinics, hospitals and testing sites could provide critical information to policymakers and others as they respond to the pandemic.

“The project has multiple objectives,” Daniel said. “We want to inform health system coordination and policies in real time to ensure maximization of limited resources such as test kits, PPE and personnel.”

Casey Daniel, Ph.D., M.P.H.
When patients request COVID-19 testing, their answers to screening questions are logged into a database. The information, which is de-identified to protect confidentiality, covers symptoms, exposures, existing illnesses, travel, and demographic information. The research group includes USA Health staff and third-year medical students.

“After they are tested, we add the results into the database along with any comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune disorders that put patients at a higher risk,” Daniel said. “This data will give us a better picture about COVID-19 trends in our area, such as what ages, races and communities have been the most affected and how these compare to state and national trends.”

USA Health began testing employees and established patients in mid-March and partnered with the City of Mobile to open a testing site for the public on April 6 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Daniel said that the project also aims to develop a protocol for following up with patients who test positive for COVID-19 to gauge length of symptoms and any recurrence or complications over time. “We don’t know yet what the long-term outcomes will be,” she said. “Gathering this information now will be essential as we learn more about COVID-19.”

Daniel said she plans to develop both peer-reviewed articles for publication based on the data as well as community briefings to inform local residents about what COVID-19 looks like in our area.

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