Chronic lung disease patients navigate COVID-19 aided by SAS analytics

Chronic lung disease patients navigate COVID-19 aided by SAS analytics

More than 320 million people worldwide suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition causing severe chest and breathing problems. As the coronavirus pandemic quickly escalated, a collaboration with analytics leader SAS helped the COPD Foundation use its data to measure impact to this vulnerable population and develop critical resources and programs.

The COPD Foundation, a non-profit that speeds innovations for more effective and affordable disease treatment, applied SAS® advanced analytics – natural language processingand machine learning – to data collected from surveys of the COPD community.

“Using SAS to sift through volumes of text data and analyze sentiment, we were able to quickly pivot our focus and concentrate on topics relevant to our community and provide answers and support in real time,” said Ruth Tal-Singer, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the COPD Foundation.

Finding the right analytics solution

At the onset of the pandemic, the COPD Foundation, with partners across government, healthcare and business, launched a series of global surveys to its more than 47,000 members. Their goal was to collect first-hand perspectives from the COPD community about their general concerns and needs as well as COVID-specific cases (tests and diagnoses, symptoms, hospitalizations, medications and more).

To date, the foundation has conducted three COVID-focused surveys, receiving insights from its members. The unstructured nature of the data included in the survey responses made it challenging for researchers to analyze and extrapolate findings.

“You could collect data all day long, seven days a week, but unless you can properly analyze the data set, you can’t get much value out of it,” explained Vincent Malanga, Chief Information Officer of the COPD Foundation. “We needed to partner with someone who could help us expertly gather and analyze everything coming in so that we could understand what the data was saying and how to best respond.”

Advanced analytics uncover hidden insights

Leveraging SAS’ visual analytics and text sentiment analysis capabilities allowed the foundation to expeditiously explore  volumes of unstructured data, identify patterns and trends, and create reports that helped direct community outreach and support. Using SAS® Viya®, the COPD Foundation:

  • Quickly innovated to virtually help patients who were at much higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 
  • Helped improve and maintain patient access to healthcare, provide emotional well-being support, and address concern about drug supply. 
  • Captured the community’s concerns, such as access to oxygen and impacts to employment and pulmonary rehabilitation, as they have evolved throughout the pandemic. 

Reimagining and improving the future for COPD patients

The foundation’s measurement of COVID’s impact continues. Ongoing data analysis will help its staff direct resources where they will prove most beneficial to COPD patients, their families and the caregivers that treat them.

“The more we can do with analytics, the better we can serve all our partners, our patients and our caregivers. We can allocate resources more effectively through the ability to be nimble and successfully integrate information from different sources,” said Tal-Singer.

“SAS has world-class analytics, and it met the needs of our enterprise architecture approach, where it’s scalable, secure, flexible and extendable,” said Malanga. “We want software to be able to conform to what we need to do in the future – like possibly integrate with open source solutions and pre-trained language models – and SAS gives us that freedom.”

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