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The Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) international community will host a COVID-19 virtual study-a-thon this week (March 26-29) to inform healthcare decision-making in response to the current global pandemic.

Map of COVID-19 cases © Shutterstock
The study-a-thon aims to inform the healthcare response to the COVID-19 pandemic

It is being held in lieu of the cancelled OHDSI European Symposium, which would have taken place in Oxford. Lead organiser Daniel Prieto-Alhambra, Professor of Pharmaco- and Device Epidemiology at NDORMS said: "Our organising committee was hit quite hard when we realised it would be necessary to cancel our long-awaited OHDSI European Symposium, but we quickly realised that our community could come together and make a difference in this global pandemic."

"We are using the time for a COVID-19 virtual study-a-thon that will catalyze a long journey of shared research ahead. Based on the early enthusiasm of our many registrants, I'm optimistic that we can make important progress on the journey and make a meaningful contribution to this international effort."

More than 290 people from 29 different countries have registered for the four-day online event. Alongside the Oxford team are researchers from Erasmus Medical Center, Columbia University, UCLA, Ajou University, Janssen Research and Development, and IQVIA with active participation across government, industry, and academia.

The event is structured to have two main goals: (1) to generate immediate real-world evidence on prioritised questions shared by national governments, public health agencies, health-related institutions, and community members; and (2) to design COVID-19-specific studies that can be validated and available to run when such data is available.

The OHDSI community will initiate its COVID-19 research agenda by designing and executing a series of observational studies across its international network of data captured during clinical practice; these sources include, but are not limited to, electronic health records and administrative claims, the vast majority of which represents data from patient experiences prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. These retrospective analyses will examine the safety of proposed drugs and the effects of various treatments on historical viral diseases, as well as predict outcomes for patients with viral symptoms or complications. Collaborators will also rigorously design studies that will be applied to COVID-19 cases as they are captured in these observational data sources, and new sources are being sought. Patient privacy will be protected in all studies.

All generated real-world evidence will be placed in the public domain to support and inform current public health efforts.

Study collaboration activities will be ongoing throughout the four days, with three daily virtual conferences to update the community on progress throughout the event. Those conferences will be available to all registrants, and daily updates will be shared on OHDSI forums, as well as on the OHDSI Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

"We have been inspired by the response of our international community as it comes together for this COVID-19 kickoff study-a-thon, which will provide the foundation for a long community research journey on this global pandemic," said George Hripcsak, MD, MS, the Vivian Beaumont Allen Professor and Chair of the Columbia Department of Biomedical Informatics. "At its core, OHDSI is a virtual research community that has built an infrastructure of both high-level analytics and community involvement required to meaningfully impact decision support."

OHDSI is a multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary collaborative to bring out the value of health data through large-scale analytics. All solutions are open-source. OHDSI has established an international network of researchers and observational health databases with a central coordinating center housed at Columbia University.

You can learn more about OHDSI from this video from the 2019 OHDSI U.S. Symposium, or by checking out

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