In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., it became quickly apparent that nursing home residents, one of the country's most vulnerable populations, were at greatest risk. The U.S. public health infrastructure was, and largely remains, ill-equipped to mitigate disease outbreaks and monitor the safety and effectiveness of newly developed treatments.
While some facilities began to provide researchers with relevant data summaries in periodic reports, statistical analysis remained impractical due to the infrequency of updates and disparate data formats.
Realizing that these challenges critically limited nursing homes' capacity for pandemic preparedness and response, officials began to ask questions such as:
- What health trends or disease outbreaks should public health officials be monitoring?
- How well are current treatments working?
- What unexpected safety issues with medical products may be apparent in the data, especially in frail, older adults?
- What Phase 3 and 4 clinical trials could be conducted among LTC facilities and residents?
Exponent's Multidisciplinary Solution
To respond to both emerging and longstanding needs, Exponent's interdisciplinary team built a data pipeline based on input from key stakeholders.
As the LTC Data Cooperative matures, approximately 1,000 of the targeted 10,000 nursing homes are already sharing their data. Exponent is using the data to support improvements in healthcare operations by sending site-specific reports to participating facilities.
Another accomplishment leverages the richness of free-text fields in EHR data. In this study, the team performed a digital ethnography of falls by using natural language processing to reveal prominent themes in nurses' notes. The LTC Data Cooperative will also support research projects ranging from those that use de-identified data to phase 3 and 4 clinical trials.