The current Coronavirus crisis unearthed some of the shortcomings of modern health care systems. In our almost day-to-day exposure to our healthcare system we could observe first-hand the fragmentation of information, lack of interoperability and eventually additional avoidable workload for health care professionals in order to obtain and integrate medical data.
There are already plenty of national and international websites tracking number of cases, deaths, and even ICU stays of COVID patients (for example Johns Hopkins database). Clinical researchers generate medical data on cases which get published in journals or pre-print servers. Public health interventions such as travel restrictions are put in place based on these data, as well as expert opinions. What is missing is one unifying platform for these three sources of data.
These two paths lead us to our project idea of creating a comprehensive, structured database of COVID-19 patients to aid response as well as research of this novel disease.
What it does
COVspace utilizes COVID19-related national data of the European member states and combines it with much more background information. It will have different features one being our map: In our map screen you'll be not only able to see the current number of COVID19 cases and deaths for each european nation, but also information about free and occupied capacity of intensive care units and data about national measures being taken, specific data about cases in each country (e.g. average age, preexisting conditions, symptoms, and so on) and also estimations about dark figures of each member state. Another feature will be our knowledge hub: It'll be a clear and structured database for facts and knowledge about treatment and management of COVID19: medical guidelines of professional societies, case-reports, clinical trials, and much more.It will enable healthcare professionals and the general population to receive relevant and Real-Time-information on the current situation - on only one website- European-wide.
How we built it
Our whole project started with 6 medical students who came together through the EUvsVirus hackathon. We brainstormed about problematic situations that populations face not only in Germany but in Europe and all other parts of the world. After a very short time we agreed on the problem we want to find a solution for: the missing centralisation of data and the huge count of sources. On the same evening we created a concept on how to solve this issue and started planning the project COVspace. We collected data about Covid-19 from various sources, organized it and analyzed how we could include those informations into our project. Quickly we came to the idea of a map that could help with better visualization and easy understanding of the epidemiological information. But we also wanted to offer another part on the website: A knowledgehub - where we provide information from medical societies reaching from basic hygiene, to medical guidelines, papers research and many more.
With those two features we can gather epidemiologic data, information about healthcare systems current situation, research results and basic medical knowledge and bundle all this important knowledge on an uncomplicated website. Visitors will have fast and easy access to a huge amount of relevant information which will make COVspace a reliable source and personal assistant for every process of understanding and decision making. And if you’re still missing some information, you can contribute to the platform as well. After we decided on the basic structure of the website, we started to work in teams to be more efficient in the short time span given. We collected further data, worked on programming the website and on the layout, we also checked the sources for their reliability, worked on our social media presence and came into contact with new and potential cooperation partners of which some already directly provided new data for us. In the end we can now present you our prototype of COVspace which we will further develop after this hackathon so it can and will become your structured source of bundled information and decision-making aid soon.
Challenges we ran into
After deciding on our main idea we ran into our first challenge: We needed to decide how we want to collect data for our database: If it should come directly from hospitals and healthcare professionals or if we wanted to rely on other sources. After short discussion we came to the conclusion that if we wanted to stick to our idea of providing as much information as possible and to do so as fast as possible we needed to get our data from other data pools, since collecting it separately from each healthcare player would make data collecting slow and strongly dependent from the active cooperation of these actors. To still incorporate healthcare players we directly want medical staff and other healthcare professionals from all around Europe to contribute and help us with filling the site with more research and information in future.
To make sure that we are not providing any false information on our website we quickly realized that we needed to quality check our data sources, find out where data originally comes from and decide on certain requirements those sources need to fulfill.
In the first few hours we were able to collect a lot of data and information. Regarding our goal of providing a big amount of information on only one website this was great. But we quickly came to realize that we needed to prioritize which feature we wanted to build first since including all information and features would take more than 3 days. We first focused on building the map and filling it with information from a few websites before starting to fill the knowledgehub. In future we want to collect more data for our map, offer more information in our knowledgehub, analyze collected data under different aspects and find more cooperation partners to provide us with their information. Another challenge we faced was having only one member being responsible for programming. Managing this potential issue as a team was pretty easy: we divided all the other work into the rest of our team, helped with the layout of the website and had a structured plan to avoid idle time. Halfway through we were lucky enough to welcome an IT student into our team.
Despite all the different challenges we faced we quickly learned to work efficiently, structured and fast as a team since everyone was very invested in our project from the first second on.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
In the last three days we created a website out of an idea - the idea of helping with communication about the current situation by providing easy, fast and bundled exess to as much information as possible.
We are still working on perfecting and filling COVspace with more information but within this hackathon we set the framework and reached the first milestones for our project - the project that will change the way european citizen, decision makers and professional healthcare workers get important information on the current pandemic situation.
We are proud of developing a project in such a short time span and are happy to continue working on it after this weekend.
What we learned
Coming together three days ago we did not know how this weekend would end. We came up with an idea but did not know how far we would make it. We learned that even in this short amount of time we are able to form a project and to create our website as a team. This was only possible because we worked as a team. We learned how important it is to have clear communication and team structure, to provide everyone with a part of the project where they could exploit their personal potential. Even in moments facing (as it seamed) impossible issues we learned to work, to stay positive and to find solutions - as a team. We experienced the need for a good mental health management in times of massive workload.
We came together as strangers never having worked on a project together or either simply knowing each other but we quickly learned how to function as a team.
At the end of this weekend we learned that it is not impossible to face a problem, find a potential solution, draw a concept and create a project - to build a website from one simple idea - in just three days.
What's next for COVspace
The future of our project opens many possibilities. We want to not only provide information about current pandemic numbers but also offer statistics and aggregation of the data of our database. We want to create a bigger knowledgehub and gather and integrate even more information that will help with decision making and assessment, for example a regional database of ICU capacity that could make recognizing capacity shortage faster and distribution easier. Our prototype currently can’t offer displaying a time course of ourdata, which we want to establish as well.
We also want to provide the comprehensive data needed to evaluate whether and how fast positive results can be achieved by public restrictions and if they are flattening the curve.
For the future another goal will be to incorporate into our map how many unreported cases each country approximately has.
We also want healthcare professionals from all around Europe to contribute and help us fill the site with more research and information to help us build the biggest COVID-19 dataspace.
Furthermore we aim to compare our data about COVID-19 with other viruses like the flu or ebola. It’s our goal to avoid another pandemic and to be better prepared for the next time.
Take a look on our team: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ttka2vhZE_Q