An opinion piece in last week’s New York Times called for “a cloud-based platform to allow hospitals nationwide to report their ICU bed status and their ventilator supply daily”. The stark facts are that the need for hospitalization due to COVID-19 will increase swiftly in the U.S. and we don't have enough medical equipment to deal with the influx of patients requiring care. We saw the opportunity to produce something that can break down data silos in an attempt to empower those at the frontline of care and ultimately save lives.

What it does

The COVID Supply Central (CSC) portal enables hospitals and health facilities to share real-time data on beds, ICU capacity, ventilators, PPE, and other supplies. Facilities can capture what supplies are required, request supplies from other facilities, and update needs that have been fulfilled. Supply data flow in real-time to Tableau Public maps, visible within the portal and on the web, so health workers and public health officials can keep their finger on the pulse of key resources. As data flow in every day, the maps enable users to easily and immediately understand where supplies are running low, ensuring ventilators get rapidly deployed where they’re needed most.

How we built it

We are leveraging the Salesforce Platform and its declarative features, including a Salesforce Community with self-registration, to enable users anywhere to register and use the portal. We chose Salesforce with an eye towards scalability, flexibility, and interoperability, enabling us to quickly add to and adapt the portal as feedback comes in from users, translate it into dozens of languages, and integrate with other relevant tools.  We set up Salesforce as a data source for Tableau Public, which we used to build interactive, filterable maps showing real-time data.

Challenges we ran into

Salesforce Communities are quick to spin up but licenses have a cost. We are working to get Salesforce to donate Community licenses for at least the next 90 days so the app can play a role in helping health facilities share supply information. Additionally, we ran into some trickier than expected automation nuances related to linking newly registered Community members to existing facilities.

Other challenges related to keeping data entry as simple and quick as possible. Following feedback from subject matter experts, we ended up removing a number of data fields and creating a simpler, mobile-friendly interface.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Within a couple days, we've developed a portal with built-in Tableau analytics that meets the defined requirements related to real-time data sharing on ICU capacity, ventilator availability, and more. We built several routes for data to get updated in the system using a browser or mobile device, allowing for quick and easy data entry that simplifies the work of facility staff who have little time available. In addition, more detailed inventory fields are aligned with a form that facilities are already filling out for the CDC, mitigating the risk of redundancy and additional work for overtaxed workers.

What we learned

This challenge has provided us the opportunity to learn a great deal about supply management at hospitals, various types of PPE, and how hospitals track and report data on beds, ventilators, and PPE. We believe that beyond building a deep understanding of the needs behind this project, it also gave insight to how we consume news and health care statistics as individuals and understand the global pandemic.

Members of our team gained experience with a range of tools including Tableau Public, FormAssembly, Salesforce Communities, and Jira. We learned that Salesforce has offered companies a wide range of free licenses over the next 90 days through their Salesforce Care initiative.

Overall, we gained an appreciation for the kind of pressure everyone working on the frontlines of the COVID response is under, and we got some great insights and feedback from members of the Hackathon community.

What's next for COVID Supply Central

Time is of the essence and this tool is critically needed now. Over the coming days, we aim to (1) obtain donated licenses from Salesforce to enable thousands of hospital staff to use CSC, (2) get an initial group of at least 20 hospitals entering data daily, (3) partner with one or more relevant nonprofits such as APHA, MSH, PIH, and CHAI to help connect health personnel to CSC, (4) coordinate with the CDC and FEMA to gather feedback and hopefully get their support in raising awareness, and (5) leverage our network and relationship with Salesforce to spread the word to hospitals and health facilities around the globe about CSC.

Try It out



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