Turning COVID-19 evidence into life-saving guidelines, really fast

Sam Chalela

Sam Chalela

Technical Principal

The firehose of information about COVID-19 is overwhelming right now. For healthcare professionals working on the frontlines, trying to keep up with the latest research findings to provide the best care possible to their patients with COVID-19 is a battle in itself.

In the middle of a pandemic, how do we ensure that everyone from GPs to ICU nurses have the best possible evidence to work with? How can we wade through an overwhelming volume of research and potentially conflicting advice to give clear, real-time guidance to the people who need it most?  

Cogent is helping to build the technology to solve this very urgent problem.

Turning research into the best possible care

A world-first Taskforce has been formed in Australia to ensure that frontline healthcare professionals can treat COVID-19 with confidence, knowing that their approach is backed by evidence.

A team of researchers will be using technology to synthesise the explosion of COVID-19 research and data from around the globe that will contain life-saving insights, and deliver a set of COVID-19 guidelines to healthcare professionals. These will be “living guidelines”, which means they will be updated with new relevant and quality research in near real-time, to provide a single source of truth for all healthcare professionals.

Partners and Funders of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. Source: covid19evidence.net.au

What are we doing? 

One of the key tools the Taskforce researchers are using is Covidence, a global not-for-profit service dedicated to improving evidence-based healthcare.

Cogent began working with Covidence in July 2011, establishing the business and product strategy and delivering a first, lightweight version of the product to market. We have been working with the Covidence team ever since and they even moved in with us this year! 

This long term relationship means that we’ve been able to pull together a team of senior people with domain knowledge incredibly quickly to work alongside the Covidence team and the Taskforce researchers to clarify the functionality they need to assist them in delivering these life-saving guidelines.


Dr Julian Elliott, Founder and CEO of Covidence, with Matt, Design Principal at Cogent.

Julian is also Head of Clinical Research in the Department of Infectious Diseases, Alfred Hospital and Monash University, and Senior Research Fellow at Cochrane Australia.


How are we doing it?

Like everyone right now, we’re doing this project with a distributed team, all working from their make-shift home offices, and this project is incredibly time critical. It’s a challenge.

We’ve been using online collaboration tools like Notion.so and Mural.ly extensively to gather artefacts and capture what we’re learning in order to maintain a shared understanding as we go. We’re not usually big on documentation for documentation’s sake, but we’re also usually co-located, so we’ve been very deliberate to produce only the right artefacts and reports that the team needs to maintain transparency. These also help us maintain a tight feedback loop with the Taskforce, who are very busy literally saving lives. Key stakeholders can give us asynchronous feedback using Notion and Mural, and we use regularly scheduled Google Hangouts with them to sync up and clarify questions.

The Taskforce researchers are already synthesising research and data, and delivering guidelines to healthcare professionals in Australia. Our goal is to provide them with the tools to efficiently manage the rapidly increasing tsunami of data on COVID-19 so they can continue to deliver consistent, up-to-date, evidence based guidance to help save Australian’s lives.



Members of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. Source: covid19evidence.net.au


Our commitment to the purpose

A set of guidelines can usually take years to produce. The speed at which the COVID-19 Taskforce came together and delivered the first set of guidelines (within 2 weeks) is truly amazing. To support their mission, Cogent started work on this project pro-bono. Again thanks to our long-term relationship, we knew we could help and wanted to show our commitment to their purpose.

We’ll keep you updated on the project as it rolls out – watch this space.

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