Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Tracking the pandemic in Ontario's ERs

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks receives $1.2 million in funding to build a provincial database to track COVID-19 patients.

Emergency departments are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is a lack of high-quality clinical data to guide best practices and optimize outcomes. 

Queen’s University researcher Steven Brooks has been awarded $1.2 million through the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund for his project that will develop a provincial registry of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients in emergency departments across Ontario. 

“There is an urgent need for high-quality data from suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients managed in Ontario emergency departments to support better decisions, improve care, flatten the COVID-19 curve and support better preparedness for future pandemics,” says Dr. Brooks (Emergency Medicine, clinician-scientist Kingston Health Sciences Centre). 

Data to be collected includes details about each patient’s demographic information, health status, COVID-19 testing resultssymptoms and signs that prompted their emergency visit, testing and treatment in the emergency department, in-hospital treatment and course (e.g. whether they required life support and intensive care), as well as outcomes during their hospital visit (e.g. survival).  

The registry will support the development of clinical decision rules for patient screening, diagnostic studies (e.g. swabs and imaging), therapeutics (e.g. intubation) and disposition (e.g. admission to ICU, discharge home). 

The research team will also be following up with patients captured in the database by telephone at 30 days, 90 days, six months, and one year to measure survival and quality of life. 

In addition, the registry can potentially serve as the foundation for several other studies. For instance, Dr. Brooks is in preliminary talks with partners at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to plan a study that involves testing the blood of patients in the registry to understand how COVID-19 antibodies affect disease presentation and severity. He is also working with several provincial and national administrative data repositories (e.g. Canadian Institute for Health Information, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) to ensure that de-identified data captured in the registry can later be linked with administrative health data to understand how COVID-19 might impact health services use. 

The Ontario study is a component of a larger national network – The Canadian COVID-19 Emergency Department Research Network – led by Corinne Hohl out of the University of British Columbia.  There are 50 emergency departments across Canada participating and the team is also reaching out to international emergency department networks to establish the possibility of collaboration. 

One of the objectives of our registry is to contribute to the global knowledge base on the problem,” says Dr. Brooks. 

For more about the funding, visit the website.