Our goal, from the beginning, is to equip employers with the insight necessary to make data-driven decisions for their organization. To accomplish this, our Lead Clinical Scientist, Dr. Janet Young., CEO and Co-founder Rod Reasen, and VP of Product, Amy Brown, spoke on the current COVID-19 data and how employers can leverage this information to address concerns. Below, we’ve summarized the three key takeaways from their presentation.
Understanding the conflicting information around COVID-19
Dr. Young shared that because COVID-19 is a new condition, the information experts have access to is limited, and changing hourly. For instance, as we all search for understanding of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, sources vary in regard to how frequently specific symptoms occur. Additionally, as experts digest the evolving information, two individuals can view the data and interpret it differently.
Due to the common symptoms of COVID-19, how would you be able to identify if an individual had contracted the disease? When looking at two sources1,2, we see that fever, cough, aches and pains, and a sore throat are common symptoms from both sources. While the likelihood of fatigue, sneezing, headaches, and shortness of breath are still being determined. This allows us to begin to fill in the gaps, in terms of what symptoms we might expect if this disease is contracted.
“I know from past experiences with new communicable diseases, we tend to fill in gaps if we don’t have all of the data. We don’t like uncertainty. Filling in the gaps with hypotheses based on what we know from other similar diseases seems to be logical. But, I think we can expect the information around COVID-19 to keep changing during the weeks to come.” -Dr. Young
What we know about the current risk of COVID-19
When taking a closer look at the risk associated with COVID-19, Dr. Young called attention to the two types of risk we should take into consideration - the first being, the risk of contracting the disease. To better understand this, Dr. Young described a measure used in public health, R0, which provides information on how infectious a contagious disease is by providing the typical number of individuals who will be infected by one individual with the disease.
For example, when looking at the seasonal flu, if you were to contract the flu, on average, you could pass it to another 1.3 individuals. For COVID-19, it’s estimated 2-2.5 people could be infected per one person carrying the disease, but this estimate may change. When taking this information, and looking at the infection cycles that follow the individual initially infected, COVID-19 is spread to 2 other people. The first infection cycle after this, transmits it to 5 individuals. If the disease were to go through ten cycles, 10,235 end up infected.
“Part of the reason we’re talking about social distancing, is we’re trying to reduce our rate of infecting others by limiting the times we restart the infection cycle.” -Dr. Young
Next, we look at the second type of risk which is the severity of COVID-19 if contracted. To dive a bit deeper into this second type of risk, Dr. Young called attention to data from the two countries with the most experience with COVID-19, China and Italy.3 4 This information shows that 63.4% of the 22,512 cases in Italy, and 81% of 44,672 cases in China are mild forms of the disease.
“Of course, we prefer that individuals have mild forms of the disease. But, we need to keep in mind that individuals with mild cases are more likely to spread the disease because they are likely to have contact with more individuals than individuals who are seriously ill.” -Dr. Young
Dr. Young then called attention to the CDC’s most recent data on statistics from the United States.5 Initially, when information from China became available, the thought was that most hospitalizations and deaths would be among older individuals. Based on the CDC’s data, it appears around half of the cases with reported hospitalizations are those between the ages of 20 and 65.
“I think these cases are noteworthy, due to the financial and healthcare ramifications for the employee population and the impact these hospitalizations could have on an organization’s health spend.” -Dr. Young
Helping your organization make informed decisions related to COVID-19
Dr. Young stresses: we are all in this together. As more data becomes available, our healthcare experts are building tools to help you identify at-risk segments of your population. Additionally, we are creating targeted reporting tools for information relevant to COVID-19 to be available for organizations.
To highlight how our team is working to empower you, Amy Brown, VP of Product, identifies the immediate and long-term needs of this situation. Currently, we’re identifying groups at the highest risk of adverse outcomes if infected, understanding who’s most likely to be exposed and exposure factors, and anticipating costs that may be incurred for treatment of this condition.
To efficiently monitor these new impacts, we’ve added a new category to our product, Insights. This product was built to help our users understand their members who could be at the highest risk for severe complications, should they end up contracting the disease. We created this new category for our users to more quickly uncover members that may merit outreach, engagement, and strategy to ensure they’re doing everything in their power to avoid exposure. The eight groups in this category, identified by the CDC, highlight members with conditions such as kidney disease, members currently identified or at risk for diabetes, members currently diagnosed or at risk for neurological conditions, and more.
By filtering within these focus populations, users are able to quickly identify what other conditions and gaps in care their population currently has and what conditions they are more susceptible to. With members that are identified to be more susceptible, employers are empowered to equip them with the support they need, given this unusual circumstance.
As this situation develops, Springbuk is here to be a resource for you and your organization. Our team of clinicians, data scientists, and health strategists continue to monitor this situation closely. Over the coming weeks, we will be releasing additional resources to equip your organization.
1Thompson, A. (2020, March 11). Coronavirus questions answered: Symptoms, latest advice and how it compares with flu. Retrieved March 24, 2020, from https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-covid19-symptoms-flu-advice-131721852.html
2Intermountain Healthcare. (2020, March 23). What’s the difference between a cold, the flu, and coronavirus? Retrieved from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2020/03/whats-the-difference-between-a-cold-the-flu-and-coronavirus/
3Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. February 28, 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2002032.
4Wu Z, McGoogan JM. Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72 314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. JAMA. Published online: February 24, 2020. DOI:10.1001/jama.2020.2648.
5Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 18 March 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6912e