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Leveraging Data Resources in the Fight Against COVID-19

As the world struggles to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is faced with challenges that threaten to break our global healthcare systems. Hospitals in many locations are nearing capacity and healthcare workers are risking their lives daily in attempts to save others. It’s a situation that demands that everyone do what they can to help.

In some cases, this is a matter of following social distancing guidelines to help stem the spread of the virus. We can give our moral and financial support to first responders whenever possible. It can feel as though there is not much we can do except let things play out.

Medical professionals and researchers have a more direct way to influence the outcome of the pandemic. They are saving lives and searching for treatments and vaccines to protect the population. A consistent characteristic of their efforts is a reliance on effectively sharing and using data.

Using Data to Battle the Virus

Here are some of the ways the medical and scientific communities are leveraging data resources in the fight against COVID-19.

The European Union is attempting to institute a common technological approach to combat the virus. The goal is to use data and apps that can interoperate across borders, making them more effective against the global nature of the coronavirus. Currently, efforts by EU member states are being hampered by the fragmented method in which research and medical care are being conducted.

The EU principles of data privacy and minimization need to be enforced in all of these shared technical solutions. The strong data protection policies in place in the EU will require care in how data is collected and used to understand how the virus is spreading and to develop efficient responses. Public confidence in the tools may be a determining factor in their potential to successfully help healthcare institutions address the pandemic.

Taking a cue from the World War II-era National Defense Research Committee, a group of tech billionaires is offering grants ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 to COVID-19 researchers. The funding decisions will be made in an incredibly shortened timeframe of 48 hours to address the seriousness of the world’s situation. The usual wait time for academic grants is measured in months or years which cannot be tolerated under current conditions.

Applicants for these “Fast Grants” need to already be working on a project that could help with the COVID-19 virus and demonstrate a need for additional funding. Recipients will undoubtedly make extensive use of data resources in their research and may need to access unknown data streams very quickly.

Scientists at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) have dropped everything else as they focus on developing a treatment for COVID-19. The team is working with live copies of the virus as they attempt to identify potential pharmaceutical solutions that can slow or stop the disease. They are testing thousands of compounds that demand accurate reporting in the lab’s databases.

Tools for Data Sharing

Organizations that are involved in coronavirus research need to be flexible and may need to quickly increase their computing resources with new cloud instances of databases. They may need to incorporate information resources from other databases that may be unfamiliar to them. Using these assets effectively requires a complete understanding of how the data is organized and the specific information contained in database records.

An illustrative example can be seen with companies that have received a “Fast Grant” to research coronavirus. The sudden influx of funds to devote to their efforts allows them to increase their computing capacity, perhaps by standing up cloud instances of databases. Before making this move, a company needs to determine if sensitive data is involved which may require special handling in the cloud.

The field hospitals being constructed to alleviate overcrowded conditions will need to make use of existing databases and resources from the localities in which they are placed. In some cases, they may be able to merge new data assets with databases already in use. To accomplish this feat, they need to have detailed models of all databases that may be combined.

ER/Studio Business Architect is part of IDERA’s ER/Studio line of data modeling and governance tools which includes ER/Studio Data Architect and Enterprise Team Edition. These applications can be instrumental in developing shared data models and allowing organizations to effectively share their resources. The tools can be used in conjunction with one another to provide organizations with robust data models that allow them to align processes with business goals and collaborate on data definitions and glossaries. They also provide the means to identify sensitive information that may need to be treated differently to preserve regulatory compliance.

ER/Studio Business Architect lets users map and model the relationships between data and the people and processes that use it. The kinds of connections discovered through this process enable enterprises to quickly understand data resources and put them to good use. Teams can use it to reverse engineer databases so they can immediately get up to speed and direct their attention toward the job of battling COVID-19 on the multiple fronts of research and patient care.

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