Clinician Connect

New ways of working with evidence, now and beyond the pandemic

25 Nov 2022 Reading time approximately

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged healthcare systems around the world. Dr Kim Sutherland, the Agency for Clinical Innovation's Director, Evidence, shares how the COVID-19 Critical Intelligence Unit continues to be a valuable source of integrated evidence to support decision-makers across the NSW health system, and beyond.

The COVID-19 Critical Intelligence Unit (CIU) was established by the Secretary of NSW Health in March 2020. The aim was to integrate and summarise evidence-based insights and data to inform the NSW Government, health system and community response to COVID-19.

For policymakers and system leaders, the pandemic created an imperative for agile and rapid decision making about public health responses, clinical care, service planning, supply chain management, safety assurance and communication.

Evidence – drawn from research, data repositories or experience of clinicians and patients – has taken on heightened value in guiding those decisions.

The CIU has brought together clinical, analytic, research and policy experts from across NSW Health to develop innovative approaches to collating evidence and disseminating data. Together they have:

  • produced more than 1,800 products, spanning data dashboards, living evidence tables and evidence checks
  • contributed to the international literature, with four articles published
  • engaged with around 2,000 direct subscribers to the Daily Digest
  • provided a range of information products through the CIU web pages, with more than  300,000 visits.*

The unit has been praised by stakeholders, including the international COVID-END group.

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 Critical Intelligence Unit has produced*


incident controller daily reports


editions of the Evidence Digest


topic-specific evidence checks


weekly risk monitoring dashboards


weekly reports monitoring international data


online living evidence tables


dashboards focused on strategic elements to tackle the Delta outbreak

* Figures are to November 2022.

Value beyond the pandemic

The CIU is founded on an agile and efficient operating model that can flex in response to different levels of demand for rapid evidence.

Its agility has been demonstrated in the response to the recent Delta outbreak. Rapid scale-up saw the introduction of tailored advice and new intelligence products, such as Incident Controller Daily Reports to provide insights at local health district, local government area and postcode levels; and a range of dashboards, tools, monitoring and reports to address specific information needs.

Much of the success of the CIU can be attributed to the development of new ways of working with evidence and information – cutting-edge innovations have informed and helped shape international approaches to evidence synthesis and intelligence.

Many of the innovations developed by the CIU have relevance, utility and value beyond COVID-19.

NSW Health has been acknowledged as highly successful in many aspects of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the system response has been multifaceted, the CIU has played a valuable part in it.

The CIU has been listed as a finalist in the 2021 Premier's Awards. The CIU is one of the six finalists in the Recovery and Resilience category, and is being recognised for:

  • developing innovative approaches to evidence and data collation
  • establishing a flexible, agile and low-cost operating model able to respond to changes in circumstances and urgency.

The success of the CIU is a remarkable example of ongoing commitment to partnerships and collaboration across the various agencies of NSW Health, with consumers and frontline clinicians.

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