Epic Systems

A metal wizard stands in the center of the King’s Cross campus courtyard last summer.

When medical experts worried there were some high blood pressure drugs that could harm COVID-19 patients, Epic researchers quickly got to work.

They soon found out the medications in question — RAAS inhibitors — were safe, thanks to the Epic Health Research Network started last spring. The researchers mined data from 69,000 patient records within the network, a Sept. 8 Wisconsin State Journal story reads.

The story states when the March shutdown occurred, it caused “many patients to avoid routine care, Verona-based Epic quantified the impact on cancer screenings: Tests to detect breast, cervical and colon cancer dropped about 90%, which encouraged hospitals to boost screening again.”

Those findings and many others have been published in the research network to “rapidly share observational research gathered from its electronic medical records,” the story states. It’s a company effort the pandemic has accelerated.

“Things are unfolding very quickly, and getting those learnings into the hands of the appropriate people is really important,” Dr. Chris Mast, Epic’s vice president of clinical informatics told the Journal.

The study of high blood pressure, according to the story, was prompted by worries that RAAS inhibitors “could activate cell receptors to make people more susceptible to COVID-19.”

The analysis of the 69,000 patients with hypertension and COVID-19 found that while on RAAS inhibitors, they did no worse than those on other drugs for the condition.

“Other research yielded similar conclusions,” the story states.

In May, Epic published a report showing that “breast and cervical screenings were down 94%, and colon cancer tests were down 86%” in the spring, compared to previous years.

An update in July showed the screenings increased, the story states, but they were still “a third lower than normal.”

Between March 15 and June 16, Epic researchers told the Journal that 285,000 breast exams, 95,000 colon tests and 40,000 cervical screenings were missed.

The story states “more than two-thirds of Americans” have an Epic record. The company provides those to “nearly a third” of United States hospitals.

“About 70 Epic customers, representing about 60 million patients, are part of Cosmos, a warehouse of anonymous patient data that can be probed to answer clinical questions to help doctors make decisions,” the story reads. “Roughly the same number of customers and patients are a part of another program, Insights, set up specifically to look at COVID-19 care. The two groups overlap to some extent.”

Seth Hain, Epic’s vice president of research and development told the Journal such assessments will continue to be important as the pandemic evolves.

“We expect both these types of observation studies … to be relevant as we look forward to a vaccine,” he said.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.