Leveraging Electronic Health Care Records To Improve Public Policy

How many fully vaccinated people still develop COVID-19 infections? How did the 2020 spike in firearm injuries affect minorities? What impact did the pandemic have on hospitalizations for teens with eating disorders?

Electronic health records (EHRs) are a treasure trove of data to answer such question. And one company—Epic Systems—has made that information available to researchers across the country through Cosmos, a clinical and public health research platform.

Private data for public benefit

Epic launched Cosmos in 2017, but its full opportunity was first realized in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when clinicians were desperate for any information they could find on treating this novel disease. Seeing that need for solid data, Epic’s founder and CEO, the irrepressible Judy Faulkner, pushed her team to launch what was then called the Epic Health Research Network (since renamed simply Epic Research).

“The Network was intended to be a new kind of journal to fill the need for good, actionable insights—fast,” Faulkner said.

While it does not replace the role of peer-reviewed clinical research, Epic Research uses Cosmos to provide public health officials quick, accurate answers to important health questions. Cosmos combines electronic health record data from over 140 million U.S. patients, refreshed every 14 days, from over 700 hospitals and 10,000 clinics, an event base of some 4.5 billion patient encounters including 2.2 billion visits with health care providers. The data covers patients from rural and urban areas as well as healthcare paid for by individuals, Medicare, and commercial health plans. Before data enters Cosmos, it is de-identified in 16 categories to protect patient privacy.

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