As the COVID-19 situation across Indiana changes and evolves, researchers at Regenstrief Institute are developing more accurate models to help state leaders make the best decisions possible. Shaun Grannis, MD, is part of the team keeping a watchful eye on the data.
“The models are going to change from day to day as we get new and better data,” said Grannis, who is the vice president of data and analytics at Regenstrief. “The IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) models were initially informed by data from China. As other countries have hit their peaks, and as the United States comes closer to its peak, we are capturing data more relevant to the US, which will help to refine the estimates.”
Grannis, who is part of the IU Precision Health Initiative Data and Informatics Pillar leadership, says the numbers suggest that social distancing may be making an impact, shortening the epidemiological curve compared to what researchers have seen in China. He says if people hadn’t been practicing social distancing, we may have seen a much higher peak in Indiana earlier on, which could have exceeded the state’s health system’s capabilities to respond to the crisis.
“We have seen the curve bend,” said Grannis, who is also a professor of Family Medicine at IU School of Medicine. “Although we see more optimistic numbers, that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. We must continue to prepare for a surge because the model projections by their nature have wide error bars. While the error bars narrow as we learn more, we don’t want to get caught resting on our laurels. We still need to make sure we have enough ICU beds, enough ventilators, and enough staff to take care of anything that may come our way.”
While researchers continue to gather more information, Grannis says there are still additional factors they would like to be able to consider. Some of them, such as race and ethnicity, are not always part of the COVID-19 related laboratory tests that are being collected.
“It turns out that race and ethnicity data are often unpopulated in laboratory test results,” said Grannis. “We are making a very big push now, here in Indiana and across the country, to creatively capture these elements, including asking our health system partners that when testing is done, to please add data elements such as race and ethnicity. Arming ourselves with more complete critical factors associated with COVID-19 transmission and outcomes allows us to allocate valuable resources where they can be most impactful.”