Each month, the HDR UK Impact Committee consider dozens of articles made open access and select the most impactful examples, ranked against core pillars of the HDR UK ethos: research quality, team science, scale, open science, patient and public involvement, patient impact and diversity.

In May, the committee has chose COVID-19 trajectories among 57 million adults in England: a cohort study using electronic health records, by Thygesen et al., as their winning open access publication.

In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers from University College London (UCL) combined multiple NHS datasets on national laboratory testing data, primary care consultations, hospitalisations and deaths to reveal the exact trajectory of individuals through the healthcare system during the pandemic, and what impact this had on their health outcomes.

The analysis uncovered 15,486 deaths that occurred within 28 days of a COVID-19 diagnosis but didn’t list COVID-19 as being a cause of death. A further 10,884 COVID-19 diagnoses were identified from death records alone with no other related information recorded earlier in health records.

Researchers also found almost one third of patients received ventilatory support outside of ICU departments, and that this was associated with the highest rates of death in waves one and two of the pandemic. The authors say this demonstrates the need for planning on how to scale ICU services in the event of future pandemics and healthcare emergencies.

Read the full story

What the committee said

The committee felt that the authors had clearly demonstrated the potential for this use of electronic health records to improve patient outcomes. The paper was easy to follow, despite its technical nature, with a detailed overview of the existing body of literature. The large patient cohort coupled with the open science were also commended.

The paper demonstrated clear potential to improve patient outcomes, and scored highly on almost all metrics considered by the committee.

The work was also highlighted by HDR UK via an interview with the two lead authors.

HDR UK’s Impact Committee would like to congratulate and commend this team for their contribution to HDR UK’s vision of uniting the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives.