Health IT heavy-hitters join forces for COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition

The private-sector collaborative includes EHR vendors (Epic, athenahealth), Big Tech (AWS, Microsoft), health systems (Mayo, Intermountain) and others, all working to speed development of "secure, ethical, innovative, open source" tools.
By Mike Miliard
04:00 PM

The new COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition is bringing together some notable heavy-hitters from across the healthcare and technology industries – each with different specialties, but all working toward the single aim of saving lives by helping healthcare organizations gain better data insights to fight back against coronavirus.

WHY IT MATTERS

Members so far include: Amazon Web Services, Arcadia.io, athenahealth, Buoy Health, CommonWell Health Alliance, Epic, HCA Healthcare, Intermountain Healthcare, LabCorp, Leavitt Partners, MassChallenge, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MITRE, nference, Rush University System for Health, Salesforce, University of California Healthcare System and Walgreens.

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition is also consulting with national experts on pandemics about the strategic, clinical and operational imperatives they should be helping their clients manage.

First convened by leaders from Mayo Clinic, Leavitt Partners and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and coordinated by MITRE – the coalition aims to channel the private-sector response to the ongoing pandemic, and help facilitate communication, aggregate de-identified data – whether it's clinical insights into the behavior of the coronavirus and COVID-19 or resource requirements such as ICU beds and ventilators.

“Applying real-time data analytics and best practice guidance to a pandemic can flatten the curve of infection and change its course, as seen with Ebola and H1N1," said Dr. Jay Schnitzer, MITRE’s chief technology and medical officer and co-chair of the Medical and Technology Officer at MITRE.

"The business and research communities have mobilized to address COVID-19 and give this data analysis to the healthcare system leaders and public health officials to make evidence-based decisions that can save lives," he said.

THE LARGER TREND

"The power of convening enables collaboration in ways that ensure the whole is greater than the sum of their parts," said Dr. John Halamka, president of Mayo Clinic Platform, in a statement. "In the past 24 hours I've seen the best of humanity coming from the coalition."

Writing on his blog recently, without naming names, Halamka hinted at some of the work that may be going on among coalition partners and beyond: 

"Here are examples of what I've seen in the past 24 hours," he said:

  1. A major data analytics company focused on COVID modeling asked to collaborate with a major vaccine lab to accelerate development
  2. A group of competing companies aligned to create national policy requests that enable more virtual care
  3. Two competing big tech companies agreed to work together on helpful web-based resources for the country
  4. Big tech companies are offering expertise and credits for cloud resources
  5. An EHR company is working on a heat map showing orders placed for COVID testing as a proxy for virus spread
  6. An AI company is creating a map of national searches for COVID symptoms as a proxy for virus spread
  7. Many companies are offering free/reduced cost services in support of COVID response
  8. A non-profit recognized that we'll likely need a national vaccine registry linked by a nationwide patient matching strategy when a vaccine is available 12-18 months from now. They will assemble a guiding coalition for that effort.
  9. A group of investigators is working on a trial of using convalescent plasma as a mechanism of conferring immunity. 
  10. A laboratory is seeking coronavirus positive blood to accelerate the development of an easy to run, highly specific serology-based blood test.

"For all the anxiety we feel, it's clear that many people are working for the common good," Halamka wrote. "So if you're feeling that the future will be more Mad Max than Star Trek, realize that people around the world are working together to create the best possible outcome."

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition operates according to five guiding principles, it says:

  • Everyone participates for the benefit of the country only – no preferential advantage to any one organization.
  • Everyone cooperates and openly shares their plans.
  • Nobody will get paid for coalition work – without exception. Everyone brings their own resources – no money is exchanged.
  • Verbal agreements will suffice to get us started.
  • Agree to these terms and conditions and you are in.

Coalition members aim to use data and evidence to improve decision-making around: Healthy populations (better understanding the effectiveness of community mitigation efforts through various social-distancing efforts); people at risk of COVID-19 exposure who need diagnostic testing; and healthcare-delivery systems (virtual and physical) with a focus on staff, space and stuff (supply chain).          

ON THE RECORD

"Pandemics thrive in confusion," according to a coalition note posted on Halamka's blog. "Not because diseases like COVID-19 have intent, but because the lack of a focused response makes the spread of disease so much easier.

"More targeted measures are needed and that requires coordination. We need to leverage the strengths of the private sector. By bringing together healthcare organizations, technology companies, non-profits, academia, and startups we can leverage their unique strengths for the benefit of all."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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