Can We Fight Coronavirus with Data?

COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, continues its rapid spread. As the world looks on, a massive response is underway across industries and regions. Perhaps for the first time, we are seeing how the interconnectivity of our world creates problems with containment that weren’t present with previous widespread health crises.

According to FMI, “a pandemic, if it develops, will necessitate engagement across a host of areas, including health care, store operations, supply chain, food safety, workforce, emergency management and media.” 1

Thankfully, one asset our world possesses today is the presence of a massive network of data.

When harnessed effectively across sectors, data can be a lifesaving tool to combat this dangerous outbreak and whatever comes our way in the future.

Using Data to Combat Coronavirus & Pandemics

Like many other infectious diseases and viruses, COVID-19 spreads through contact with an infected person. Due to the extreme mobility of today’s global population, keeping viruses contained to one small portion of the world is nearly impossible. Doctors predict that every state in the U.S. will soon see a significant surge in cases.

According to Datanami, “While the possibility of a global pandemic is real, people can take some solace in the fact that public health officials have at their disposal an array of powerful data collection and analytics techniques that previous generations lacked.”

In 2020, when a patient is diagnosed with a disease like COVID-19, it’s much easier to quickly develop a data profile of them. This profile can contain where they live, where they work, their family, where they’ve shopped, etc.

Leveraging a wide array of data – like field reports, flight manifests, social media, news sites, and IoT devices – health organizations can trace where the infection may have been spread, and build predictive models around where the virus will take hold next.

On a larger scale, data plays a critical role in ‘outbreak science.’ This consists of statistical modeling to target outbreak response needs to “inform the effective use of vaccines, antivirals, and other countermeasures (e.g., school closures and social distancing).”

Managing Essential Medical Inventory with Data

Aside from tracking of infected individuals, another major consideration in the battle against an outbreak is inventory management. Healthcare workers must have the necessary resources to treat patients and keep from getting infected themselves.

At a hospital, these resources span medications, hospital beds, testing kits, or even the rooms themselves. With proper data tracking, medical facilities can determine, in real-time, what supplies are needed to combat outbreaks and treat patients. They can also have up-to-the-minute tracking to determine whether they can accept a new patient or divert them to another facility with lower occupancy.

Healthcare facilities can also use data to help tackle staffing issues by tracking practitioner availability, being prepared with locum tenens, and predicting upcoming shortages. After an assessment is made, facilities can come up with creative solutions. In some cases, retired medical staff is being re-hired and re-trained.

With a more data-driven inventory strategy, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can better predict inventory needs and not be faced with alarming shortages. From a manufacturing standpoint, data can be analyzed to quickly assess shortages and bump up production to address supply and demand.

The Effect of Coronavirus on Consumers

Store shelves are empty across the world as consumers rush to buy supplies. According to StoreBrands and a Nielson report, hand sanitizer sales were up 73% over the prior-year period in February. Additionally, despite Surgeon General Jerome Adams urging the public to stop buying face masks, sales for medical masks saw a 319% percent boost. Canned goods, medical gloves, water, and supplies like toilet paper have also been flying off the shelf. Certain products and medicines made in the coronavirus-epicenter of China are increasingly unavailable.

On the flip side, more consumers are staying away from crowded shopping areas, lowering the demand for other goods. For example, NBC News reports that areas in Seattle are like a “ghost town,” with shops in the iconic Pike Place Market nearly empty.

In times of crisis, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers need to know how much inventory they have, which products are selling the fastest in which areas, what type of demand to anticipate, where they can source products from, etc.

Master data management (MDM) becomes an even more critical platform for meeting the needs of healthcare workers, governments, B2B companies, B2C companies, and even the consumers themselves.

What Can Organizations Do Differently?

When it comes to the coronavirus, people want to know how bad it will get. Doctors and scientists predict that coronavirus cases will surge and then fall off in the warm summer months. However, they are also predicting we will see a second wave next Fall and Winter.

What can healthcare organizations do to say ahead of the threat?

  • Manage Patient Data: Having the capability to manage patient data such as symptoms, medications, allergies, days of treatments, test results, etc., along with utilizing a framework to analyze trends, is essential.
  • Track the Virus: From a big picture, health and government agencies must be able to track where the virus is headed. Are certain geographic areas more affected than others? Certain demographics? What treatments are working best?
  • Track Medical Staff: It is also important in an emergency to be able to easily track all your staff available. This includes the capability to manage doctor specialties, locum tenens, hours, etc. Who can fill in? Who has exceeded their hours? Are they certified to treat infectious diseases?
  • Manage Product Inventory: It’s crucial to know if you have all the necessary materials required in an emergency such as medication amounts, needles, blood, masks, gloves, number of beds available, sheets, protective clothing, etc. And, if you run out, what suppliers have inventory that can be purchased and delivered the fastest.

Because of our connected world and the threats we face, it is more important than ever to have a solid data foundation in place. Not only for the success of businesses, but for the safety of the global population and practitioners.

Utilizing an MDM solution with an Agile Data Fabric such as the EnterWorks by Winshuttle enables health care organizations – along with retailers, manufacturers, and distributors – to analyze trends, manage product and supply inventories, locations, employees, and physical assets.

To learn more about how companies can use MDM to ensure high data quality, read our report: 4 Keys to Unlocking Data Quality with MDM.

1 Salazar, David, How retailers are responding to coronavirus, March 3, 2020.
2 Woodie, Alex, How the Coronavirus Response Is Aided by Analytics, February 3, 2020.

Kerry Young

Kerry Young

Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.

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