Back to Top Skip to main content

The role of data in the war against COVID-19

Clinician with mask looks at computer screen at a hospital. The Joint Trauma System launched the COVID-19 registry in a matter of months to consolidate data collection across all military hospitals and clinics around the world. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr.)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

In the war on COVID-19, the Department of Defense will rely on the future development of vaccines and treatments as weapons in its arsenal. Data sets that inform decisions and improve care serve as a key component toward this effort. The staff of the Joint Trauma System at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, lead that effort.

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion,” said Mary Ann Spott, deputy chief of the JTS. Spott helped create DoD’s Trauma Registry in 2006 and the recently launched COVID-19 registry, which will track patient information and treatment outcomes to help inform best practices.

“A registry provides high-quality data that’s collected in a standardized and consistent format,” she explained. “It allows you to make decisions that impact care positively. So you can look at what everyone is doing and pick best of breed and promulgate it through the entire system.” Insights from the trauma registry prompted changes across the DoD in resuscitation and blood transfusions of trauma cases, said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Stacy Shackelford, chief of the JTS. By analyzing data in the trauma registry, researchers found that a blood transfusion received within the first 30 minutes of injury led to increased survival. “This evolved to all special operations medics being trained in blood transfusions and providing blood to carry in aid bags,” she said.

In the same way, the COVID-19 registry could provide critical understanding to make performance improvement guidelines. Working with infectious disease experts from Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, the JTS deployed the COVID-19 registry in a matter of months to consolidate data collection across all military hospitals and clinics around the world.

The registry will capture approximately 195 unique data points, including demographics, symptoms, past medical history, lab and radiology tests, contact with known infected patients, treatments, outcomes, and complications. By identifying data points of patients and linking data to specific treatments and outcomes, researchers can draw conclusions and recommendations. Shackelford admits she finds such analysis challenging and complicated. Data must take into account risk factors, which places a burden of responsibility to ensure accurate and meaningful conclusions. Otherwise, she said, you may end up with inaccurate information.

“This registry, which already includes data from 6,510 patients, will support COVID-19 clinical performance improvement and track the epidemiology of the disease,” said Thomas McCaffery, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in a recent announcement. “The data will help research and medical teams, both in the DoD and the civilian sector, provide more accurate insight into future advancements in vaccines and treatments.”

While the registry will collect information on potential drug treatments for COVID-19, the first priority will be to study the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma or CCP in patients, said Shackelford. “The registry also will track the outcomes of patients who receive CCP compared to those who do not – all of which will greatly enhance efforts toward therapeutic treatment development,” McCaffery added. The ability to track patients through the continuum of care represents a unique component of DoD registries. The COVID-19 registry will track patients from the first visit to the achievement of a negative COVID test to the 30-day period after leaving the hospital. As the clinical understanding of COVID-19 continues to evolve, the registry will adapt to include new treatments as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Society of Critical Care Medicine, Shackelford added.

Location information in the registry could help identify potential hot spots and lead to the deployment of military medical units and equipment in response to an outbreak, according to Spott. The system will also flag recovered patients who live within 40 miles of a blood collection center to identify potential CCP donors. For those patients who live more than 60 miles away from a blood center, mobile blood units could move out to secure donations, added Shackelford. The registry may also help identify asymptomatic cases. “One of the important things we are implementing right now is to be able to tie symptom survey results to lab testing,” she added.

In the long term, Spott believes the COVID-19 registry may help with future viral outbreaks. “We have a good infrastructure now; we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this and we could apply it to other pandemics and also other epidemics,” she said.

Shackelford labeled as key having the full capability of data analysis, performance improvement, and clinical practice guidelines to support decision making by leadership at the highest level on down to unit levels.

“The value of the registry is not just data alone. Just collecting data is essentially not going to change anything, but really linking it to performance improvement guidelines,” she said. “One of our overarching goals at JTS is to establish the framework of a trauma system in every combatant command so we can immediately establish performance improvement in times of war …and this pandemic is a war.”

You also may be interested in...

Confronting the Coronavirus and Countering Complacency

Article
7/2/2020
Masked Navy members consult clipboard.

Call it the COVID-19 complacency conundrum.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Pentagon leaders brief department's COVID-19 response to reporters

Article
7/2/2020
Three men sit at blue table with American Flag and Pentagon symbol behind them.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects each area of the nation differently. Local leaders at military installations decide protocols for public safety on a case-by-case basis. The Military Health System supports those leaders by providing health surveillance data, updated to reflect current information.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

BAMC Change of Command 2020

Article
7/1/2020
Two masked soldier display an award in front of flags.

Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Wendy Harter, the first female commander in Brooke Army Medical Center’s history, turned over command to Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Shan Bagby, the first African American commander in BAMC’s history during a June 26 change of command ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

COVID-19 leads to innovation in military health care practices

Article
7/1/2020
Man in lab coat and mask prepares sample for COVID-19 testing.

MHS thinks outside of the box to bring care to patients during pandemic

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Research and Innovation

How the military stays ready during disease outbreaks

Article
6/29/2020
Headshot of Dr. Sanchez

A Q&A with a health surveillance professional at Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Coronavirus

Summer PCS plans altered by COVID-19

Article
6/29/2020
Man wearing mask loading boxes into a car

Service members and families have suggestions to keep you safe.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Summer Safety

BACH Civilian earns RHC-A Civilian of the Year

Article
6/26/2020
Soldier and woman standing by two flags, crossed.

[Guidry] will advance to the U.S. Army’s Medical Command (MEDCOM) Civilian of the Year competition later this year.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

DoD trains staff to collect convalescent plasma donations

Article
6/26/2020
A service member donates convalescent plasma at a blood donation center.

Learn about training features, locations, timetable

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

MHS Minute: DoD Focused on COVID-19 Testing and Treatment

Video
6/25/2020
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

Have you recovered from COVID-19, or tested positive for antibodies? Consider donating convalescent plasma. To learn how, go to https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Army 2nd Lt. first to donate convalescent plasma at Benning

Article
6/24/2020
Soldier in chair, giving blood

Convalescent plasma contains antibodies to fight the disease.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Pharmacy Operations Division (POD) Reverse HPCON Status Guidance

Publication
6/24/2020

Guidance for Outpatient MTF Pharmacies in Response to COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID Pharmacy Guidance

Download Letter to Beneficiaries

Publication
6/24/2020

This message replaces guidance issued on March 31. It explains actions military pharmacies are taking to keep services and visits safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it outlines your pharmacy options as a TRICARE beneficiary.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID Pharmacy Guidance | TRICARE Health Program

DHA’s new MEDLOG IT PMO supports MHS logistics

Article
6/23/2020
Soldiers loading boxes onto helicopter

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MEDLOG IT PMO provided essential medical logistics IT and supply chain support across the MHS and Department of Defense.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Solution Delivery Division

Tackling mosquitos to protect the force

Article
6/23/2020
Man emptying bag into a helicopter spreader

Mosquitoes transmit a host of woes but not COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Bug-Borne Illnesses | Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Understanding the potential of COVID-19 convalescent plasma

Article
6/19/2020
Researcher scans a unit of plasma in lab.

Researchers are harnessing the power of antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Program | Armed Services Blood Program
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 12

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.