Information management is key to the success of any emergency response, and with the COVID-19 pandemic there’s been a tidal wave of updates on the virus. To contain that flood of information, faculty and staff across George Washington University (GW) are developing weekly intelligence reports for frontline providers and leaders throughout the GW medical enterprise.
“With the instant news cycle we’re living under, providers and decision makers need the latest reliable information to guide their work. They need to know the information is trustworthy,” said Lawrence “Bopper” Deyton, MD ’85, MSPH, senior associate dean for clinical public health, Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, and professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), who leads the GW COVID-19 Intelligence Unit responsible for creating the reports.
The request for the creation of a GW Intelligence Unit came from William Borden, MD, chief quality and population health officer at The GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA), and Bruno Petinaux, MD, chief medical officer at GW Hospital.
“We needed a way to review the information, assess the validity of the information, and consolidate it into actionable summaries that leaders across the GW academic health enterprise could use,” Borden said.
Borden added that Deyton was the natural choice to lead the project: “he brings tremendous clinical, academic, public health, and policy expertise, combined with the leadership skills, to drive this complex and critically important initiative.”
The Intelligence Unit, which has now produced eight reports, is made up of more than 25 faculty experts from the GW MFA, GW Hospital, SMHS, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, and the GW School of Nursing, as well as Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library reference librarians.
A new report comes out every Monday, posted on the Himmelfarb website.
“At the start of each week, one of the librarians sends to the entire unit a request for information, asking each member to provide updates on the latest knowledge in their respective disciplines,” Deyton explained. Once all the updates are submitted by faculty, a librarian and a clinician will parse through the information and weed out any submissions that may not be pertinent for the report’s audience.
A draft report is created and then vetted by Intelligence Unit “core faculty,” which consists of librarians and SMHS clinical public health faculty members.
One faculty member supporting the project is Andrew Garrett, MD, MPH, program director for Emergency Health Operations and associate professor of clinical research and leadership at SMHS. Garrett’s specialty is pre-hospital care and disaster medicine, he holds a degree in public health, and previously served as both deputy chief medical officer and director for the National Disaster Medical System, enabling him to offer his experience and expertise to the Intelligence Unit.
“It is a given that in a situation like COVID, or in almost any disaster, leadership will have an incomplete picture of what the situation is on the ground in real-time, and also what evidence exists to inform the way ahead,” he noted. “Yet, decisions still have to be made. … The Intelligence Unit plays an important role by bringing together people with experience in different areas, such as medicine, public health, and library science, to triage the tremendous volume of news, research, and opinion that is available on the Internet and beyond.”
Some recent news that is being tracked, Garrett said, includes pediatric multi-symptom inflammatory syndrome impacting young children infected with COVID-19 and the debate around the effectiveness of possible therapeutics such as hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir.
In addition to expert faculty, the reports would not be possible without the support of librarians.
Upon receiving Deyton’s request for help, Elaine Sullo, MLS, MAEd, associate director for reference and instruction at Himmelfarb, said she was excited to be involved in a project that would support frontline providers.
Each librarian, including Sullo, Anne Linton, MS, MA, director of the Himmelfarb Library, and Laura Abate, MSLS, associate director of library operations, takes a week where they help to lead the collection of information and the creation of a draft of the report. The librarians, Sullo added, also have created an online guide where the content and archives of the intelligence reports are housed.
In addition, Abate has been instrumental in helping to answer specific questions when they come in from frontline clinicians and/or administrators, Sullo said.
“It is a great honor to work in partnership with Dr. Deyton and his team on this project,” Sullo said. “I'm hoping that our role in providing our frontline leaders and clinicians with relevant, timely, important information related to COVID-19 is impacting their ability to care for patients.”
Deyton added that the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is now including the GW reports, along with the link to the Himmelfarb site, in its "AAMC COVID 19 Operational Guidance Compendium." The compendium is a resource that the AAMC is making available to all medical schools to support the work each is doing to manage COVID-19.