Ronald Reilkoff, MD, M Physicians pulmonologist and critical care physician, has spent countless hours in Intensive Care Units (ICU) treating patients. Now, he and many others across the University of Minnesota are working to establish a research network that tracks data about COVID-19 patients in the ICU. 

Dr. Reilkoff explained why this data collection is so important, saying, “Everything in medicine requires context. For example, a potassium level of six is abnormal, however what is more revealing about the observation is the trend. Thus, one would react differently if the potassium level was coming down from nine or up from three. Having this longitudinal data will hopefully reveal patterns of illness and insights that we may not appreciate from our initial observations of these patients.” 

With a sudden and extreme influx of patients into the ICU, physicians throughout the world have lacked valuable data to provide evidence-based, critical care support. Having registries and databases gives frontline providers different perspectives since the data can demonstrate associations that they’re unable to see in their own wards. 

Projects that can rapidly identify measures, care approaches and delivery in COVID ICU patients, which are amongst the sickest and most expensive patients in the hospital, have the potential to improve both quality and cost for the health system as a whole. The data from this project can generate new hypotheses and helps provide a much broader analysis of COVID-19’s impact overall.

With COVID-19 pulling healthcare workers in different directions and adding new and increased responsibilities, many people are under significant time constraints. The study—funded by a CO:VID grant—became possible because physicians, research coordinators and numerous other medical professionals voluntarily chose to take on the additional responsibility.

The initiation of this project has been a great example of the collaboration that has come out of COVID-19. It’s a real silver lining of the pandemic. Everyone is willing to help out even if they’re extended.

Dr. Reilkoff

The project still requires a manual chart review to extract data into the database. Dr. Reilkoff is working with the Institute for Health Informatics team to pull automated reports and streamline the process in the future.

“The expanse of community within the Medical School is great. The fact that this registry is an international collaboration with the Discovery network of the Society of Critical Care Medicine with hundreds of groups in the United States and worldwide is unique. Everyone has the singular goal to better understand and treat this disease that has affected patients throughout the world,” Dr. Reilkoff said.

The collected data has the potential to rapidly identify measures, care approaches and delivery in COVID-19 ICU patients. It will help to inform and guide best practices for patients in situations with little room for error. 

“We’re going to play the long game on this. COVID-19 is going to be with us for certainly the next year, so the goal is to set up the infrastructure and continue to acquire and learn from the data moving forward,” Dr. Reilkoff said.