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Breaking Down a New Infectious Disease Outbreak Tracker for Health Providers and Systems

May 12, 2020

By Julie Gould 

rizkEmad Rizk, MD, CEO, Cotiviti, discusses a new tracking tool that forecasts potential new outbreaks seven to ten days in advance, and explains Cotiviti’s current goal of helping all health care stakeholders prepare for what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months.

Can you briefly discuss Cotiviti’s new COVID-19 tracker?

One of the biggest challenges of this crisis for all health care organizations as well as policymakers has been a lack of access to reliable and current data, which has kept communities from knowing the true extent to which COVID-19 has spread in their region. So as the COVID-19 outbreak was unfolding in February and early March, we assembled a team at Cotiviti to ask: “How can we leverage information available to us for research from the millions of claims processed daily on our Caspian Insights data and analytics platform to help health care organizations combat this virus?”

On March 11, when the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, our team found an answer to this question. While other organizations have released tools that map confirmed cases of COVID-19 based upon testing, we found an approach that forecasts areas where there may be “hidden outbreak”—a significant population that has been infected but has not received a confirmed diagnosis.

We knew that many COVID-19 patients exhibit symptoms that are very consistent with the flu. Therefore, we analyzed claims data to see where flu testing and flu diagnoses are occurring across the country. By comparing this data against historical trends, we can see anomalies that could indicate a hidden outbreak of COVID-19. As the pandemic has progressed and probable cases have turned into confirmed cases of COVID-19, our approach has yielded 91 percent accuracy in forecasting future hot spots.

Many state governments and local communities are also beginning to allow certain businesses to re-open or are crafting timelines for re-opening their economies in the near future. Therefore, we recently published a second map indicating geographic areas that have a longer downward trend in these leading indicators of potential outbreak to assist in these efforts.  

What are the benefits/ real world applications of this tracker? How will this address the current pandemic as well as future outbreaks?  

Our goal is to help government agencies, health plans, and providers be as informed as possible about the true impact of COVID-19 in their communities so they can appropriately determine policy and allocate resources. By forecasting potential new outbreaks seven to ten days in advance, our goal is to help all health care stakeholders prepare for what’s ahead in the coming weeks and months. As states and counties reopen local businesses under social distancing rules, it will be critical to maintain active surveillance of any early spikes that could indicate COVID-19 resurgence. 

What tips do you have for health plans, providers, stakeholders, who are dealing with the pandemic and are interested in this tracker?  

The most important thing for all health care stakeholders to do right now is to make decisions based on sound data. We encourage health care organizations to use this outbreak tracker as one tool in their data arsenal as they plan ahead day by day, week by week, and month by month.  

What is the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition? What are the benefits of this coalition?

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition is a group of private-sector organizations contributing their collective expertise to address this pandemic, including leaders in health care, technology, academia, and the nonprofit sector. More than ever, it is critical for the public and private sectors to work together as we face this pandemic. Elected officials and regulatory agencies are responsible for setting policy and corralling available government resources, but the private sector has access to a wealth of data and other resources that the public sector does not. These organizations are stepping up and contributing their knowledge and capital, where feasible, to combat the epidemic.  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have many friends who are serving on the front lines of our health care system during this pandemic. We owe it to them—and to every worker who interacts with the general public on a daily basis, whether it’s a grocery store cashier or a postal worker—to limit our exposure to COVID-19 so that they do not become infected either. I know it’s difficult, especially as spring weather arrives and people want to be outdoors with their families, but this is a situation that requires us to collectively sacrifice some of the everyday amenities we’re used to enjoying.

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