Influence
May 6, 2020

Breaking down the data: Regenstrief scientist explains what the numbers mean

Understanding the data surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak can be difficult. Brian E. Dixon, PhD, MPA, director of public health informatics at Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI, has helped break down the information and what it means to the everyday person during this pandemic.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he explained the difficulty in classifying the cause of death for COVID-19 patients. He said the virus exacerbates a patient’s underlying medical conditions, often leading to death. In those cases, it’s up to the best judgment of a medical examiner or coroner.

“We, in the scientific community, think COVID-19 deaths are being under-reported, not over-reported,” said Dr. Dixon.

He has also spoken to the media about the hospitalization rate and what it indicates, as well as what epidemiologists learned from the 1918 flu pandemic that is relevant to the current crisis.

Regenstrief and Fairbanks School of Public Health research scientists are working on a number of projects to gain insight into the prevalence of the virus in the population. Dr. Dixon is one of the leaders for the team compiling, analyzing and continually evaluating and refining the Regenstrief COVID-19 dashboard and is involved in gathering and analyzing data on COVID-19 symptoms from an online survey that is a partnership between Regenstrief and Indiana University and is solicited through Microsoft News. Also, in his role with Fairbanks and Regenstrief, he is on the team working with the Indiana State Department of Health to test Hoosiers from across the state for the virus.

Dr. Dixon’s expertise has been featured on WRTV6, Indiana Public Broadcasting, WANE, FOX59, CBS4, and in publications including Politico, HealthIT Analytics, Inside INdiana Business, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and the IndyStar. He was also part of an American Medical Informatics Association COVID-19 webinar on the role of public health informatics in managing the outbreak.

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