Data-driven, cross-disciplinary collaboration: lessons learned at the largest academic health center in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic

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FRONTIERS IN PUBLIC HEALTH, v.12, article ID 1369129, 15p, 2024
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Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted global research efforts to reduce infection impact, highlighting the potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration to enhance research quality and efficiency.Methods At the FMUSP-HC academic health system, we implemented innovative flow management routines for collecting, organizing and analyzing demographic data, COVID-related data and biological materials from over 4,500 patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection hospitalized from 2020 to 2022. This strategy was mainly planned in three areas: organizing a database with data from the hospitalizations; setting-up a multidisciplinary taskforce to conduct follow-up assessments after discharge; and organizing a biobank. Additionally, a COVID-19 curated collection was created within the institutional digital library of academic papers to map the research output.Results Over the course of the experience, the possible benefits and challenges of this type of research support approach were identified and discussed, leading to a set of recommended strategies to enhance collaboration within the research institution. Demographic and clinical data from COVID-19 hospitalizations were compiled in a database including adults and a minority of children and adolescents with laboratory confirmed COVID-19, covering 2020-2022, with approximately 350 fields per patient. To date, this database has been used in 16 published studies. Additionally, we assessed 700 adults 6 to 11 months after hospitalization through comprehensive, multidisciplinary in-person evaluations; this database, comprising around 2000 fields per subject, was used in 15 publications. Furthermore, thousands of blood samples collected during the acute phase and follow-up assessments remain stored for future investigations. To date, more than 3,700 aliquots have been used in ongoing research investigating various aspects of COVID-19. Lastly, the mapping of the overall research output revealed that between 2020 and 2022 our academic system produced 1,394 scientific articles on COVID-19.Discussion Research is a crucial component of an effective epidemic response, and the preparation process should include a well-defined plan for organizing and sharing resources. The initiatives described in the present paper were successful in our aim to foster large-scale research in our institution. Although a single model may not be appropriate for all contexts, cross-disciplinary collaboration and open data sharing should make health research systems more efficient to generate the best evidence.
COVID-19, cross-disciplinarity, research collaboration, research management, research data, data science, data management, health data analysis
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