OHDSI Kicks Off International Collaborative to Generate Real-World Evidence on COVID-19 with Virtual Study-a-thon


The Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) international community will host a COVID-19 virtual study-a-thon this week (March 26-29) to inform healthcare decision-making in response to the current global pandemic.

More than 320 people from 30 different countries have registered for the four-day online event, which will be led by researchers from Oxford University, Erasmus Medical Center, Columbia University, UCLA, Ajou University, Janssen Research and Development, and IQVIA, with active participation across government, industry, and academia.

Held in lieu of the canceled OHDSI European Symposium, this event is structured to have two main goals: (1) to generate immediate real-world evidence on prioritized questions shared by national governments, public health agencies, health-related institutions, and community members; and (2) to design COVID-19-specific studies that can be validated and available to run when such data is available.

The OHDSI community will initiate its COVID-19 research agenda by designing and executing a series of observational studies across its international network of data captured during clinical practice; these sources include, but are not limited to, electronic health records and administrative claims, the vast majority of which represents data from patient experiences prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. These retrospective analyses will examine the safety of proposed drugs and the effects of various treatments on historical viral diseases, as well as predict outcomes for patients with viral symptoms or complications. Collaborators will also rigorously design studies that will be applied to COVID-19 cases as they are captured in these observational data sources, and new sources are being sought. Patient privacy will be protected in all studies.

All generated real-world evidence will be placed in the public domain to support and inform current public health efforts.

“Our organizing committee was hit quite hard when we realized it would be necessary to cancel our long-awaited OHDSI European Symposium, but we quickly realized that our community could come together and make a difference in this global pandemic,” said Daniel Prieto-Alhambra, MD, MSc, PhD, Professor of Pharmaco- and Device Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and lead organizer of the 2020 Symposium at Oxford. “We are using the time for a COVID-19 virtual study-a-thon that will catalyze a long journey of shared research ahead. Based on the early enthusiasm of our many registrants, I’m optimistic that we can make important progress on the journey and make a meaningful contribution to this international effort.”

Study collaboration activities will be ongoing throughout the four days, with three daily virtual conferences to update the community on progress throughout the event. Those conferences will be available to all registrants, and daily updates will be shared on our COVID-19 updates page and OHDSI forums, as well as on the OHDSI Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

“We have been inspired by the response of our international community as it comes together for this COVID-19 kickoff study-a-thon, which will provide the foundation for a long community research journey on this global pandemic,” said George Hripcsak, MD, MS, the Vivian Beaumont Allen Professor and Chair of the Columbia Department of Biomedical Informatics. “At its core, OHDSI is a virtual research community that has built an infrastructure of both high-level analytics and community involvement required to meaningfully impact decision support.”

OHDSI is a multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary collaborative to bring out the value of health data through large-scale analytics. All solutions are open-source. OHDSI has established an international network of researchers and observational health databases with a central coordinating center housed at Columbia University.

You can learn more about OHDSI from this video from the 2019 OHDSI U.S. Symposium, or by checking out www.ohdsi.org.