University of California health data initiative launches daily updates on COVID-19 tests

Today, the University of California Health will begin to distribute daily updates via its @UofCAHealth Twitter account about SARS-CoV-2 testing volume, the number of positive tests and age distribution of confirmed cases gathered from its five medical centers across the state.

Led by Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D., chief data scientist and the director of the Center for Data-driven Insights and Innovation (CDI2) at UC Health, the dashboard unifies testing information on patients at each of UC’s academic health centers – UC Davis Health, UC San Diego Health, UCI Health, UCLA Health and UCSF Health - as well as externally performed tests for UC patients.

The resulting high-level dashboards will help the University, the State and federal officials understand the rate of increase in cases and geographic spread in near real time in order to make the most effective decisions and planning possible.

“Real-time data is critical to the practice of medicine today. By drawing on our deep and knowledgeable data science experts across the University we are able to rapidly build and launch this reporting tool. It is critical information to create transparency on key pandemic-related trends in the state,” said Dr. Carrie L. Byington, executive vice president of UC Health and an infectious disease expert. “We’re uniquely positioned with our academic health centers located across the state to give public health and elected officials the visibility they need for responding to this pandemic.”

UC data scientists, with the help of applications and analytic teams from all five academic health centers, created the UC Health Data Warehouse to capture and standardize clinical information from each health center’s electronic health system to improve the quality of delivered care and to enable systemwide research. When the pandemic began, the team developed a process to gather key COVID-19 metrics including the tests being conducted internally and externally, test results, confirmed cases by geography, age and gender, and other factors. 

UC Health began in-house testing in mid-March and has continued to scale-up capacity. To date, more than 13,000 patients at UC Health have been tested, with a positive rate of 6.64 percent. Tests are performed on patients that meet certain clinical criteria, including exhibiting influenza-like illness symptoms. Tests performed on behalf of patients at other facilities, such as Zuckerberg San Francisco General, are not included in the reports. The critical details and trends are then displayed in user-friendly reports without personal identifying information. The reports are accessible to UC Health leadership, as well as to state and national crisis leadership. 

“We’re able to provide a near real-time picture of the current COVID-19 situation across our system, which because of its reach can be a proxy for the state conditions. Thanks to the architecture and functionality of the data system, users can see the information at the level they need whether that is a statewide overview or specifics by location,” said Butte.

UC Health comprises five academic health centers, the community-based health system in Riverside and 19 health professional schools.  All of UC’s hospitals are ranked among the top ten in California and its medical school and health professional schools are also ranked among the best in their respective areas.