As COVID-19 spread around the U.S., health care providers needed guidelines to treat patients—and they needed them fast.
The solution? A website that would house data- and expert-backed clinical treatment guidelines devised by a panel of U.S. physicians, statisticians, and other experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), universities, and health care organizations.
The Frederick National Laboratory led a collaborative project to build one, finishing in just two weeks.
The materials for the website were delivered to the White House Coronavirus Task Force for review on April 9. The website went live on April 21.
“[It was] exciting and humbling. Like all of us, I was happy to contribute in whatever way I could,” said senior team member Mike Galcik, an information technology manager at the national lab.
The information on the website covers two broad categories of experimental treatments currently in use: antivirals and immune-based therapies and host modifiers.
“Because clinical information about the optimal management of COVID-19 is evolving quickly as published data and other authoritative information becomes available, the guidelines required a platform that could broadly disseminate information while being flexible enough to adapt to rapid changes,” Galcik said, adding that a public NIH website made the most sense.
Rising to the Challenge
The NIAID Division of Clinical Research asked Frederick National Laboratory’s Clinical Monitoring Research Program Directorate (CMRPD), which is led by Beth Baseler and includes Galcik, to coordinate the project. The two groups have a long-standing relationship that has previously demonstrated CMRPD’s ability to meet aggressive timelines while delivering high-quality results, making it well suited for the task.
The Frederick National Laboratory entered into an agreement with ICF, an international consulting firm, and partnered with several groups to create the website. The effort spanned multiple institutes and contracts and included collaborators from NIAID, the NIH Clinical Center and the Center for Information Technology, and executive and contracting groups at the National Cancer Institute.
The national lab’s Contracts and Acquisitions Directorate, especially Josh Wynne and Bev Hayes, helped negotiate the necessary agreements, while experts in CMRPD guided the project. On the technical side, Galcik and Natasha Freeman, director of Information Security and Compliance in the Enterprise Information Technology Directorate, worked alongside collaborators to develop and deploy the website.
“From the beginning, it was an all-hands-on-deck approach. Late night emails and calls. Rapid reviews and turnaround of materials. Records being set in delivery times, from signed agreements to issuing of Authority to Operate orders,” Galcik said.
And, Galcik adds, most of it happened in home offices, at dining room tables, or on living room couches. Many team members worked remotely in compliance with stay-at-home orders, but dedication, versatility, and constant communication ensured that the project advanced unhindered.
“I was amazed at how it all came together so quickly,” he said. “Everyone was willing and able to contribute whatever they could, with much of the work occurring from teams working in parallel.”
More Work Ahead
With the website now live, CMRPD’s focus has shifted to overseeing and helping maintain the site as information security protocols and recommended COVID-19 treatment guidelines change. The team also plans to deploy a content management system and launch a mobile app.
“[It has been] exciting and energizing working with such a dynamic, talented, and motivated team,” Galcik said. “I felt fortunate to be able to work alongside such a dedicated group of individuals in delivering a project that could benefit many.”
For more information about the website, please see the NIH press release.
By Samuel Lopez and Anne Gill, staff writers