Tech's role in COVID-19 patient surge planning and bed expansion

As the number of COVID-19 cases grows across the U.S., states and health systems are looking in many places for ways to expand bed capacity.

In some cases, that means rearranging ambulatory care space to accommodate more acute care patients. In others, hotels have partnered with health systems to convert rooms into isolated care rooms for COVID-19 patients as they recover.

The Fairplex Sheraton Hotel in Los Angeles was designated a medical shelter for COVID-19 patients on March 3, and the city of San Francisco has leased more than 300 hotel rooms for patients in the last week. It plans to lease 3,000 more, according to CNBC.

Large cities, including New York, Chicago and Detroit are converting convention centers into hospitals with thousands of patient beds.

It takes a huge effort to convert nonmedical spaces into ICUs or rooms suited for treating people with acute care needs. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued the Hotel to Healthcare concept to provide guidance for preparing hotel rooms for COVID-19 cases. It suggests including space for a ventilator, a mobile workstation for medical personnel and a hand sanitizer station. Rooms may also need extra electrical outlets and emergency backup power.

All of these updates require IT to ensure all devices work, there is wireless internet access, and that medical personnel can share information securely and quickly and communicate with the patients remotely.

In Chicago, the McCormick Place convention center was converted into a makeshift field hospital with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers to support the potential overflow of COVID-19 patients who are unlikely to need intensive care.

The facility could hold 3,000 beds by mid-April if needed and would include a cot, blanket, mask and toothbrush as well as electricity outlets for medical equipment and entertainment as well as technology for patients to communicate with their families, according to the Chicago Sun Times.

Detroit is taking a similar approach, according to Click On Detroit, turning the TCF Center into a 1,000-bed hospital. The site would require quality and technology upgrades, which would cost around $279 million, according to the report. The facility would include semiprivate patient cubicles, and electricity would run directly into each station.

New York has several efforts to develop field hospitals across the city, including in 14 tents in Central Park, a U.S. Navy hospital ship and the Javits Convention Center. Verizon is providing connectivity to the U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, through a secure, dedicated circuit that will allow for physicians to communicate with each other and patients.

Other temporary medical sites have been approved across the city, according to ABC News. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he is working with the state's hospital leaders to develop a plan that would merge its 200 hospitals into a single digital system to share information about staff and patients as well as equipment needs at the hospitals. Hospitals across the state will be able to share staff, patients and supplies, with the state's health department overseeing the digital system and resource allocation.

More articles on health IT:
$186M more in CDC funding provided for COVID-19 data tracking, response: 5 details
Houston Methodist transforms innovation hub into telehealth training center
New York to use single digital system to manage 200 hospitals

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