09 May 2023

A stylised image of a magnifying glass looking at COVID cells

A COVID-focused datathon in Bendigo has generated new insights into how the pandemic has impacted key health issues, from long COVID to intensive care and the prevalence of family violence in the community.

The ‘COVIDthon’ was a partnership between the Centre for Victorian Data Linkage (CVDL) and Bendigo Health.

Dr Angela Crombie, Director of Research and Innovation at Bendigo Health, said it was a unique opportunity to give researchers, clinicians, statisticians, and data scientists access to a large amount of de-identified linked health data to better understand the impacts of COVID across the health system.

“The evidence gathered will kick off a really robust program of COVID-related research and enable better care for COVID-related health variations in the future,” said Dr Crombie.

Participants worked in five teams to interrogate the data, utilising CVDL’s secure data access environment to undertake analysis and compete for a $14,000 research grant.

Associate Professor Leesa Hooker from La Trobe University’s Rural Health School said her team was able to use the datasets to confirm that family violence rates had increased during the pandemic.

“We can clearly see that hospital admissions across all areas increased, however we were only able to look at the very acute end of the spectrum,” said A/Prof Hooker.

“Having access to additional data in the future will help to provide a more holistic picture of the impacts of pandemic and lockdowns on family violence in Victoria and Australia more broadly.”

Monash Health Intensive Care Specialist Dr David Ku said having access to CVDL’s linked datasets could help shape better responses to future pandemics. 

“Intensive care clinicians look after the sickest people in hospital and we don’t get to see much of their journey before or after their time in hospital,” Dr Ku said.

“Having access to large-scale, high-quality data may help to inform decisions for any future pandemics and help us better understand how these policies and decisions affect people on an individual and population level.”

Each team presented interim findings of their work to a panel of experts at the end of the event. After extensive consultation and audience voting, the research grant was awarded to the team looking at long COVID risk factors and outcomes.

All participants were given an overview of the data request process in CVDL and encouraged to continue pursuing their research question by applying for further access to the linked data.

For more information on the Centre for Victorian Data Linkage or to discuss a linkage request, please contact [email protected]