UNC Health is a healthcare system comprising 11 hospitals and hundreds of clinics across North Carolina. Using data reported by the New York Times in late April 2020, several national studies identified North Carolina as a growing risk area or potential “hot spot” for the COVID-19 pandemic. As a public health system, UNC Health focuses on its mission of improving the health and wellness of all North Carolinians. To that end, it developed a system-wide data and analytics strategy to better understand and respond to patients' needs. The COVID-19 pandemic led UNC Health to accelerate that strategy.
“Throughout the pandemic, health data has been a primary driver in nearly all policy decisions at every level of government,” said Jeff Fuller, Executive Director of Analytical Solutions. “Because we support our state's hospital system, our analysts and data scientists are laying the groundwork necessary for responding to the current crisis and to future unforeseen events.”
Maintaining a high level of care and trust with North Carolinians requires UNC Health to be strategic with its data analytics. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, analytics teams rapidly created new dashboards in Tableau, starting with reports for executives and leadership teams. Within just a few weeks, the teams' focus shifted from pandemic management to the rapid creation of sustainable new tools that supported data transparency and better data-driven decision making. During the first weeks after pandemic response began, UNC Health scaled up these efforts to provide updates for more than 30,000 internal users. Data helped teams and individuals align to a common mission, created an organizational shift in healthcare data modeling, and reassured stakeholders that UNC Health was prepared to meet rapidly changing needs.
The dashboards showcased data on testing, utilization, PPE inventory, available bed space, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Among other uses, clinical teams and hospital administrators used the data to rank vulnerability for patient cases and manage care delivery priorities.