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Analysis of Ontario’s COVID-19 test data latest production from ICES — studies underway to reveal COVID-19 impacts on other health conditions, wait times


ICES, a non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues, confirmed today that the first linked data analysis of Ontario’s COVID-19 test data has been provided to Public Health Ontario (PHO) and Ontario’s Ministry of Health (MOH). The analysis covers provincial COVID-19 testing data to date and will be updated regularly for PHO and MOH.

The testing study, requested by PHO and MOH as part of Ontario’s Applied Health Research Question (AHRQ) program in which ICES participates, analysed COVID-19 testing data collected by Ontario Health (Digital Services) through the Ontario Laboratories Information System, analyzing it in terms of who is being tested in Ontario, demographics, geography, underlying health conditions, Long-Term Care or retirement home residence, socio-economic status and other factors.

“This type of ongoing analysis is crucial for allowing evidence-based and timely decisions on testing during the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a credit to our partners in Ontario’s health system that we’ve been able to integrate relevant data sets so quickly, for greatest impact, even while the frontline battles this outbreak,” says Dr. Michael Schull, CEO and scientist at ICES, and Emergency Department physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Through partnerships at the provincial and national levels, ICES has rapidly added near-real-time COVID-19-relevant data sets to its collection of linked health data. ICES’ securely held database de-identifies personal health information from the health system data, that can then be accessed for research and analytics by health system knowledge users and researchers.

A pioneer in enabling artificial intelligence and machine learning in population-wide health research, ICES is one of several contributors to Ontario’s recently announced PANTHR initiative (Pandemic Threat Response).

“We continue to support greater access to data for health research, and our collaborative ability to ensure data privacy and security while urgently expanding data analysis and access is remarkable,” says Schull. Along with contributions to PANTHR, ICES is making available data and machine learning capacity though the existing Health Artificial Intelligence Data Analytics Platform (HAIDAP), a collaboration between ICES, Vector and HPC4Health with support from Compute Ontario.

While not all AHRQ studies are publicly available, ICES research is typically published in peer-reviewed journals, and brief summaries of completed studies are published on its website www.ices.on.ca in keeping with a principle of public transparency. Researchers interested in accessing COVID-19-relevant data sets can contact ICES’ Data and Analytic Services via www.ices.on.ca/DAS.

ICES is also pleased to share its code for cleaning COVID-19 lab test results under open source license. This code was developed through a collaborative effort by ICES and MOH to identify COVID-19 cases in Ontario lab data consistently and accurately. This open source code can be accessed at https://github.com/icescentral/COVID19-Lab-Results. ICES has also made available open source code that enables a practical approach for population data quality assessment: the DataFit Toolkit is available at https://github.com/icescentral/DataFit-Toolkit.

“Our main focus regarding COVID-19 will continue to be the key work that is already underway with health system partners to integrate critical new and more timely data that enables analytics and research by ICES scientists and others in support of Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Schull.

Additional COVID-19-driven study topics and projects underway at ICES

  • Short term outcomes following COVID-19 tests
  • Resource utilization (ICU, ED use) by demographics with association between comorbidities and complications of coronavirus
  • Duration of viral shedding at confirmation of COVID-19 infection
  • Reports on COVID-19 epidemiology among Indigenous populations for and at the request of Indigenous partners
  • Blood-type and association with coronavirus and SARS-like illness
  • Examining the risk and severity of coronavirus and prescription drug use (statins, Angiotensin Inhibitors, NSAIDS/anti-inflammatories)
  • Effect of pandemic and COVID-19 positive patients on renal care and support of chronic kidney disease
  • Ventilator capacity
  • Future planning for other waves
  • Making data available to non-ICES mathematical modellers
  • Wait-times for other conditions (e.g., cardiac, cancer)
  • Elective procedures and likelihood of resulting ICU admission
  • Opioid therapy use associated with COVID-19 pandemic

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(c) 647-406-5996


Contributing ICES Scientists

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