Groote Schuur Hospital and UCT involved in global Covid-19 intensive care initiative

  • Groote Schuur Hospital and UCT are contributing to a global Covid-19 intensive care study
  • An app that will supply critical information to help Covid-19 patients in ICU is being designed by a hardware company
  • With enough data, clinicians should start seeing patterns in what works for patients in ICU 

A global alliance of clinicians and scientists is determined to find more effective treatments for the most critically ill Covid-19 patients, and to do this, they are sharing their clinical insights. Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) have joined this alliance, according to a news release.

The study is hosted by the Covid-19 Critical Care Consortium (Covid Critical), an international group which was established in January 2020. Since then, it has expanded to almost 400 hospitals and research facilities in 52 countries.

The aim of the group is to equip all intensive care clinicians with the best and most up-to-date information to improve patient outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic (and beyond). Latest statistics indicate that the disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, has killed more than 660 000 people worldwide.

Professor Ivan Joubert, the head of Critical Care at GSH and UCT, said: "Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers are doing their very best for every patient they see, but during a pandemic involving a new disease like Covid-19, it can be very challenging to know how well you are doing. The disease and treatments are new to everyone and no context is exactly the same.

Joubert commented that resources in healthcare settings are currently scarce, forcing clinicians to make decisions about the best strategy for individual patients: “The Covid Critical study can help us make those decisions better by providing the most up-to-date information, fuelled by global research and collaboration."

How it works

Participating member sites globally collect anonymised patient information from their intensive care units (ICUs), then add it to the consortium’s database. The anonymised data is then analysed and distributed by data scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia and Oxford University in England.

Once the database is large enough, AI (artificial intelligence) techniques are applied in order to generate insights quickly based on “big data”. Covid Critical is working with IBM, a computer hardware company, to design an app that will present these insights to clinicians quickly on their mobile phone or laptop, and inform them when treating their own patients.

With the growth of the database comes the potential for ground-breaking science that may ultimately change the course of Covid-19 treatment in critical care, the release explains.

‘Covid-19 pandemic like a jigsaw puzzle’

Project lead, Professor John Fraser from the University of Queensland described the pandemic as a “jigsaw puzzle”, where pieces of information about caring for Covid-19 patients are scattered across the globe.

“If the world shares all of its data, as we are doing through our consortium, we can bring all these disparate jigsaw puzzle pieces together to create a clearer picture of what these patients need in ICU and how to save lives.

“With enough data, we will start seeing patterns in what works and when – for example, when might be the best time to ventilate a patient or whether or not to use ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation),” he explained.

Dr David Thomson, the local principal investigator and part of the GSH and UCT Critical Care team also shared his thoughts:

“It’s exciting to think that Covid Critical’s research may one day lead to all frontline health workers, regardless of nationality or affiliation, having access to the best and most up-to-the-minute clinical insights, right by their patients’ bedsides through their phones or computers.”  

The study is supported by ISARIC (International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium), Australia’s Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, Wesley Medical Research and Queensland Health.

READ | Coronavirus in SA: All the confirmed cases

READ | 4 unusual things we’ve learned about the new coronavirus

READ | 'Vaccine nationalism': Is it every country for itself?

Image: Supplied/UCT 

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