The Sax Institute is at the forefront of using evidence to solve Australia’s most pressing health policy questions. Given the current global emergency posed by COVID-19, the Institute is already working on projects that will inform effective responses to the disease’s proliferation and clinical treatment. 

  • Our Decision Analytics team is readying a systems model to help hospitals better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The 45 and Up Study will be including COVID-19 related questions in its next participant survey and is considering all research proposals on how best to use its data during and after the pandemic.
  • Our SURE platform is helping researchers who need to access sensitive health data while working from home.

Read more about these initiatives below:

One of the emerging challenges in responding to the threat posed by COVID-19 lies in planning for what resources will be needed, and at what time, across the various parts of a hospital. The Sax Institute is developing a systems model to help hospitals respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and better manage their resources.

This model will show patient flows and availability of hospital beds and healthcare staff over time, identifying bottlenecks and constraints in the likely surge in patients as the pandemic unfolds. It will let healthcare planners ask ‘what-if’ questions, such as the potential impact of doubling ICU beds on patient flow and healthcare workforce, allowing hospitals to better prepare for the surge.

The model’s user-friendly interface simulates hospital resources in a virtual environment and allows users to adjust model assumptions to more closely replicate specific healthcare settings. This is a flexible model designed to work for most public hospitals in Australia, and can be easily tailored to a specific hospital, Local Health District or State or Territory.

We aim to share this model with hospitals and decision makers by mid-April. If our work is of interest to you or your organisation, please contact Cindy Peng at cindy.peng@saxinstitute.org.au.

The Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study is one of the world’s largest ongoing studies of healthy ageing, involving over a quarter of a million middle-aged and elderly men and women from New South Wales.

We are carefully considering all proposals for how best to use this nationally important research asset to support Australia’s research community both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 45 and Up Study is particularly well placed to provide important risk profile data and insights into who is most strongly impacted by COVID-19, who will require more intensive care, who will suffer longer-term impacts and how we can improve responses to similar public health crises in the future.

Our next survey of participants will begin in June and we will be asking our participants questions about COVID-19.

We plan to identify Study participants with confirmed COVID-19 and link this information with data from NSW hospitals and emergency departments, the Notifiable Conditions Information Management System (NCIMS), mortality data and MBS and PBS records, among many other health datasets.

These linked data can then be used to identify a range of outcomes related to patients’ journeys through our health system.

The 45 and Up Study has also collected blood specimens from 4700 participants, with genomic sequencing completed for over 1000 of them. This valuable resource could be used for genetic research into risk factors related to SARS-CoV-2.

The Sax Institute is interested in working with researchers and policy agencies on ways in which the 45 and Up Study can support COVID-19 related research. There are many possibilities, including additional questionnaire items, undertaking additional data collection for particular groups and trialling health interventions.

For more information, please contact Dr Kerrin Bleicher at kerrin.bleicher@saxinstitute.org.au.

The Sax Institute’s SURE (Secure Unified Research Environment) is a purpose-built, ISO 27001-accredited, secure remote-access data platform. It is equally secure and accessible from an office or from home. Researchers and policy analysts regularly use SURE to access sensitive, linked hospital, registry, survey and other government data sources for complex analyses to inform policy decisions.

For researchers now needing to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SURE is a secure collaborative tool to support business continuity where access to sensitive data is required. If you are a current user and need assistance accessing SURE on your home computer, please contact SURE-Admin@saxinstitute.org.au for help.

If you are not a current user but need access to sensitive data during periods of working from home, we can quickly provide you with a secure workspace to enable your work. If you think we can help, please contact the SURE Program Director, Matt Gorringe at mathew.gorringe@saxinstitute.org.au.