Rapid Evidence Reviews for the Philippine COVID-19 Crisis
One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is an avalanche of information that is unprecedented in magnitude. In the past 2 months, healthcare providers, policy-makers and the general public have been overwhelmed by this phenomenon. Aside from usual news from TV, radio, newspapers and medical journals, people from all walks of life have had to process kilometric threads on viber, facebook and twitter, as well as hundreds of issuances from all government agencies - from the Office of the President down to the barangays. The information from these various sources are often inconsistent or conflicting, and are always rapidly evolving. New information emerges as outdated information is just beginning to circulate. To aggravate the situation, the chaos is taken advantage of by perpetrators of false information.
Clearly, this “informageddon” has led to “information overload” – the inability to process facts because of volume or pace. The manifestation is the widespread panic we are witnessing from all sectors of society. The consequence is impaired decision making – by individuals, families, communities and policy makers. Ultimately, this may lead to a prolonged, uncontrolled pandemic characterized by avoidable deaths, disability, and huge social and economic costs. Even healthcare providers are affected. Because of fear, many feel pressured to do tests and give treatments for COVID-19, that are poorly tested for effectiveness and safety.
To help manage the information for policy-makers, healthcare workers and the general public, a group of 70 clinical epidemiologists and health professionals gathered together from the Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, National Institutes of Health-UP Manila and the Asia-Pacific Center for Evidence Based Healthcare Inc. The group conducted voluntary rapid evidence reviews and referred to themselves as “The Rappers”. The reviews were graciously shared by Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases through their website (PSMID.org). The online version allowed regular and rapid updates as evidence accrued.