“We are able to give our clinical practice the information they need to safely and effectively operate,” says Dr. Ting.

Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 modeling efforts are overseen by a taskforce led by Dr. Ting, his administrative partner John Poe, and health sciences researcher Nilay Shah, Ph.D., within Mayo Clinic’s Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. Drs. Liu, Carter and Storlie are part of this task force, as are many others across Mayo Clinic.

More than 100 years ago, William Mayo, M.D., is quoted as saying,”… in order that the sick may have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.” The current union of forces in modeling cuts across many disciplines and departments, and beyond the walls of Mayo Clinic.

“Back in about mid-February, the American Hospital Association put out a model predicting the health care system would be overwhelmed,” says Ben Pollock, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic health services researcher.

Soon after that, Dr. Ting, along with Dr. Shah and Poe, put together the COVID-19 Data Governance Task Force.

Dr. Pollock, task force member, talks about the different commercially available tools for modeling, and those that emerged during the earlier weeks of the crisis.

“We came together as a team and began evaluating emerging COVID risk models, including their [appropriate use] of existing methodologies,” says Dr. Pollock. Today he says they are using a compilation of tools to predict 2-3 weeks in advance for Mayo Clinic’s practice in Arizona, Florida, and the Midwest.

Dr. Pollock leads the task force’s efforts to develop and maintain interactive dashboards with Mayo-centric information.

On another effort, he says, “We have been using Google’s mobility data to inform our social distancing suggestions. We are also trying to figure out ways to track what people are searching for on Google, and what the connections are to shifts and impacts on our practice.”

These efforts are not just for use at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 modeling is also informing Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota’s COVID-19 response, as well other leaders across the nation.

Now and moving forward

However, the driving force for Dr. Ting and the COVID-19 Data Governance Task Force remains Mayo Clinic.

“We are modeling for OUR hospital – for our patients,” says Dr. Ting, 

As he considers the future – health care with COVID-19 in the wings – and the eventual reopening of all clinical services, he sees continued need for modeling support.

“For reopening – we have a pretty high confidence in how many COVID patients are going to need hospitalization,” he says. “We know how many resources need to be set aside to take care of them.

“Now that we know that, what can we do to safely reintroduce non-COVID patients and limit transmission?”

Dr. Ting says in coming weeks, disease prevalence surveillance and prediction will become more of focus for the team – both among staff and in adjacent communities. In addition, investigators will be studying how COVID-19 may be transmitted while patients are hospitalized. Explaining why, he repeats that this work is to “give our clinical practice the information they need to safely and effectively operate.”

For the researchers at the academic medical center that is Mayo Clinic, it’s all in a day’s work.

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