Weather data could predict hospital admissions at Mater Dei, scientists say

University of Malta academics using satellite data to predict disease outbreaks and critical hospital forecasting

A Maltese space fund is financing the study of Mater Dei Hospital’s admissions and the duration of patients’ stay, through the use of satellite imagery, to help policymakers plan better hospital services.

In a €150,000 grant from the Malta Council for Science and Technology’s Space Fund programme, the tellite4Health will analyse the images to forecast hospital admissions, and how long patients will stay at Mater Dei Hospital, to help managers predict critical situations caused by disease outbreaks.

Satellite4Health is analysing environmental and climatic data from satellite imagery and weather stations, to uncover any relationship to unexpected changes in patient admission rates, duration of stay, and responsible factors, including outbreaks or abnormalities needing urgent attention, such as bioterrorism.

The project can help hospital managers better manage Malta’s healthcare services to identify and even predict disease upsurges, outbreaks, and underlying causes.

Satellite4Health, which runs till 2023, has been collecting hospital discharge data from Mater Dei Hospital since 2021, together with data from weather stations, as well as the development of computer code for extracting satellite images from the Copernicus Sentinel 5P Precursor mission.

The project partners are Dr Lalit Garg, Senior Lecturer, Department of Computer Information SystemsFaculty of Information & Communication TechnologyProf. Sandra Buttigieg, Professor and Head of the Department of Health Systems Management & LeadershipFaculty of Health SciencesProf. Neville Calleja, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Public HealthFaculty of Medicine & Surgery and Associate Professor Charles Galdies, from the Institute of Earth Systems.

Prof. Sandra Buttigieg is also the Chairperson of the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Team at Mater Dei Hospital Malta. Prof. Neville Calleja is also the Director of the Department of Health Information & Research, Ministry for Health. Both have an excellent understanding of the needs of the end-user.

Both Mater Dei Hospital and DHIR are potential end-users of the proposed tools, and this explains why they are supporting this project. Prof. Galdies has ample experience in using space data for various types of atmospheric, water, land and urban-scale monitoring.