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Insights from COVID-19 Data

A Villanova School of Business professor used the pandemic to teach her students how they could use data analytics to gain actionable insights about COVID-19.


Kathleen Iacocca
Kathleen Iacocca, PhD, is an expert on supply chain management, business analytics and optimization with a focus on health care industries.

Perhaps almost as widespread as the virus itself is the massive deluge of data it’s produced in its wake. 

The flood of COVID-19 articles, social media posts, expert interviews and medical reports published daily is literally too much for the human brain to process—and that’s where a Villanova School of Business professor comes in, with insight into the beauty and utility of text analysis.

A type of data mining, text analysis uses software to extract insights, correlations and patterns from large data sets. In her Advanced Analytics course this past spring, Kathleen Iacocca, PhD, associate professor of Management and Operations, challenged students to identify ways companies could use text mining to gain actionable insights about COVID-19.

“While text mining analysis is not a traditional way of thinking about contributing to the pandemic, I wanted to get the point across that everyone has a skill that can be used to improve the human condition,” Dr. Iacocca said in BizEd Magazine.

The responses covered a wide range of sectors, including:

  • examining medical transcripts to identify pre-existing conditions associated with more severe cases of COVID-19 or even predict patients at greater risk for hospitalization; 
  • analyzing news stories for insights on the economy; and
  • sorting through social media posts to extrapolate how social distancing is having an effect on mental health and then tailoring support to help.