NIH launches platform to aggregate COVID-19 patient data, speed treatments

Christina Morillo/Pexels

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched a new platform to store and study vast amounts of medical record data from people diagnosed with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) across the United States, according to an announcement released by the agency.

The platform is part of the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) to help scientists analyze widespread data to understand the disease, including health risk factors that indicate better or worse outcomes of the disease, and identify potentially effective treatments.

The N3C is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is part of the NIH. The initiative will create an analytics platform to systematically collect clinical, laboratory, and diagnostic data from health care provider organizations nationwide. It will then harmonize the aggregated information into a standard format and make it available rapidly for researchers and healthcare providers to accelerate COVID-19 research and provide information that may improve clinical care, the agency said.

Data access will be open to all approved users, regardless of whether they contribute data. The data are being provided to NCATS as a Limited Data Set (LDS) that retains two of 18 HIPAA-defined elements, healthcare provider zip code and dates of service.

There currently are 35 collaborating sites across the country and the platform contains diverse data from individuals tested for COVID-19. A key component is the harmonization of data, which translates the different ways that contributing hospitals store patient data into a single, common format to enable combined “apples-to-apples” analyses. Contributing sites add demographics, symptoms, medications, lab test results, and outcomes data regularly over a five-year period, enabling both the immediate and long-term study of the impact of COVID-19 on health outcomes.

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.