Franz Edelman Award 2022, Winning Project
During the COVID-19 crisis, the Chilean Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Sciences, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation partnered with the Instituto Sistemas Complejos de Ingeniería (ISCI) and the telecommunications company ENTEL, to develop innovative methodologies and tools that placed operations research and analytics at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic. These innovations have been used in key decision aspects that helped shape a comprehensive strategy against the virus, including tools that: (i) shed light on the actual effects of lockdowns in different municipalities and over time; (ii) helped allocate limited intensive care capacity; (iii) significantly increased the testing capacity and provided on-the-ground strategies for active screening of asymptomatic cases; and (iv) implemented a nationwide serology surveillance program that significantly influenced Chile’s decision regarding vaccine booster doses and that also provided information of global relevance. Important challenges during the execution of the project included the coordination of large teams of engineers, data scientists, and health care professionals in the field; how to effectively communicate information to the population; and the handling and use of sensitive data. The initiatives enjoyed ample press coverage and, by providing scientific evidence supporting the decision-making behind the Chilean strategy against the pandemic, they helped provide transparency and objectivity to decision-makers and the general population. According to conservative estimates, the number of lives saved by all of the initiatives together is close to 3,000, equivalent to more than 5% of the total death toll in Chile during the pandemic. The saved resources associated with testing, ICU beds, and working days amount to more than 300 million USD.