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Assessing and Predicting Medical Needs in a Disaster

Develop a Data Platform to Conduct Patient Centered Outcomes Research Related to Medically Related Disaster Response and Recovery
  • Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ)
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR)
Start Date
  • 6/15/2018
  • Use of Clinical Data for Current Research


STATUS: Active Project


HHS leads the US public health and medical response to disasters and emergencies. These disasters occur in all geographic regions, yet every geography has distinct disaster types and distinct medical needs. Often, researchers are unable to address geographic differences when designing studies, which leads to inaccurate and non-generalizable results. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) focuses specifically on preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. They coordinate the National Disaster Medical System, a group of professionals who supplement health systems and response capabilities in emergency settings. In the midst of Hurricane Harvey, ASPR and the AHRQ collaborated to explore the use of Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data to predict medical needs by region. HCUP is a group of health care databases and software tools developed through an AHRQ sponsored Federal-State-Industry partnership. These databases bring together data collection efforts at multiple levels to create a resource with national encounter-level health care data.

This project aims to close the gap in understanding how to tailor disaster medical response to the local level for each event. The project will focus on the creation of a data platform that can be used to conduct PCOR related to disaster response and recovery operations. The initial platform will consist of public facing statistical query pathways that provide access to statistical tables, maps, and graphic on patient health outcomes and a restricted access set of analytic files derived from the HCUP that can be accessed by researchers at AHRQ, ASPE, ASPR, and other federal partners. The restricted file can be integrated with supplemental data sources on disaster impacts and emergency interventions at the county level. This initial platform will test whether questions about state and county-level health care disaster-related needs can be answered and tracked over time. In turn, analyses can reflect the health needs of specific populations, thus improving information to deploy appropriate medical expertise. This project will initially explore comparative effectiveness research (CER) and patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) questions such as comparing differences between communities directly affected by disaster versus other comparable communities for outcomes. Eventually, researchers can use this data to assess different interventions based on disaster type and population.


The purpose of this project is to develop a data platform to conduct PCOR related to medically related disaster response and recovery.

The overall objectives of the project are to:

  • Create a disaster-relevant analytic platform available with two levels of access.

  • Design a reporting system that can collect and share real-time reporting of medical encounters during a disaster response.

  • Pilot test the database and platform via an operational disaster training exercise, and engage researchers to evaluate whether data can predict medical needs in a disaster.