Why We Need Solor during the COVID-19 Pandemic

How Harmonizing Clinical Data Supports Accurate Population Health Analysis

With over 57 million people infected globally, a death toll exceeding 1.3 million as of November 2020, and no currently available cure, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) presented an unprecedented health care crisis in the twenty-first century. On November 20th, the United States achieved a bleak milestone: the highest number of confirmed daily coronavirus cases, reporting more than 187,000 cases. Until a vaccine can be deployed, the most effective tools in health care practitioners’ and public health officials’ arsenals are mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. These tools include: 1) a focus on quarantine, isolation, and social distancing methods; 2) detection, response, and control protocols; 3) coordinated supply chain management efforts; and 4) contact tracing strategies. These strategies rely critically on our ability to gather and appropriately analyze COVID-19 data to improve patient care and safety.

Population health analysis underpins our ability to both understand the trends in COVID-19 and slow its progress.  Unfortunately, the US does not have a compelling system for collecting, storing, and analyzing health data. Solor is working to address shortcomings in how health care data necessary for COVID-19 analysis is defined and curated.

As the healthcare industry moves to measuring the quality of care rather than the quantity of care, many hospitals, labs, and clinics create their own local customized codes, tailored for their specific patient population, quality efforts, and operational needs. Informaticists frequently manage these local codes by selecting the standard terminology code that most closely matches their customized codes for reporting and data interchange purposes. This process is commonly known as mapping. The manual aspect of mapping introduces subjectivity, information loss, and potentially life-threatening errors. Mapping can be akin to a game of telephone, where the original meaning can erode when shared over time. When health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accumulate all this data, mapping can present a false appearance of standardization when in fact facilities may have mapped different information to the same standard code. To identify trends that will lead to therapeutic treatments and life-saving public health decisions, we need harmonized data that means the same thing everywhere regardless of the source. Health care researchers may draw misguided conclusions from analyzing mapped data, which can put patient safety at risk.

Solor directly addresses this shortcoming because it brings together different terminology standards using a single model to encompass any customized content. As terminology continues to evolve, Solor is designing and implementing improved representation and processes—and working to turn the design into open industry standards that will remove the need for error-prone mapping by converting and harmonizing terminology into a single, sharable model. Solor solves the issue of local, customized terminology and mapping by allowing data to be represented in the same way, while maintaining the data’s original meaning.

With Solor, we are working to expedite the analysis of the COVID-19 data and trust the results, knowing the data was reliable. Solor can be applied to identify and verify therapeutic treatments to curb the rising mortality rate. In May, researchers published a paper showing that hospitalized COVID-19 patients who took a common heartburn medicine were more than twice as likely to survive. According to the study, 332 patients of the 1,536 in the study (22% of the patients) who were not on the heartburn medication either died or were put on a ventilator. Out of the 84 patients who were on the heartburn medication, 8 (or 10%) died or were put on a ventilator. Researchers must conduct additional studies to substantiate whether these results are reproducible. Solor can harmonize the COVID-19 patient data (including data about current medications), which can accelerate the ability to conduct these further studies and get the treatments confirmed quickly.

Standardization and reliability of public and clinical health data are outstanding problems that have become especially stark during the coronavirus outbreak. Solutions to these problems will save lives. Every moment this data is not aggregated and analyzed puts both the currently healthy and infected patients at risk. Solor will give our health practitioners and public health officials a much-needed edge in the struggle to stem the tide of the disease until the vaccine is deployed.