HCA forms COVID-19 research consortium with AHRQ, universities

HCA Healthcare announced Tuesday that it’s sharing its own clinical data with select institutions to be used for research about the coronavirus.

The consortium, which includes private research organizations and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is an effort by HCA to leverage its large repository of data on COVID-19 patients amassed through its network of 187 hospitals. Hospital giant HCA has clinical data from 110,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 2020.

“We have always believed that the privilege of scale is not size, it’s the ability to accelerate learning,” said Dr. Jonathan Perlin, chief medical officer of the Nashville, Tenn.-based health system. “We thought, if we could open these data safely and effectively to colleagues and the federal government and the best minds in academia, we can accelerate what is known about COVID and its treatment, and by doing so, save lives.”

The clinical data will be de-identified so personalized information about patients isn’t shared, according to HCA.

The consortium also involves Columbia University, Duke University, the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Meharry Medical College and the Hospital Medicine Reengineering Network, which includes the University of California, San Francisco, Baystate Medical Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In a statement, Dr. David Meyers, acting director of AHRQ, called the consortium “innovative,” adding, “We believe it has both the potential to rapidly produce new evidence to improve the safety and quality of care for people with COVID-19 and serve as a model for the development of a national learning health system.”

The consortium hasn’t yet selected specific topics for research. It is currently receiving research proposals from the participating groups. A leadership council comprised of representatives from each member of the consortium will determine what research projects are selected. Perlin said he expects research to begin within the next six weeks.

Some potential research opportunities are about demographics of patients who contract COVID, pre-existing conditions that result in worse COVID-19 outcomes and the efficacy of treatments currently in use.

Perlin said he imagines the consortium can be involved in research in other disease states in the future.

“COVID is a first step,” he said. “As we develop finesse with exploring COVID, we also prove out a platform for myriad other exciting and critical research questions.”

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