Capacity solutions for today and tomorrow: How hospitals can free up resources for COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates in the U.S., hospitals are looking for ways to immediately free up critical resources like beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

While preliminary evidence suggests public efforts to flatten the curve are having positive effects, hospitals are still unlikely to "have sufficient capacity to be able to meet the demand of the pandemic," Mudit Garg, co-founder and CEO of Qventus, said during an April 1 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Qventus.

Mr. Garg outlined three COVID-19 capacity challenges hospitals are likely to face and discussed the tools available to help address each issue. 

1. Plan for current surges 

COVID-19 will peak at different times across the country. Hospitals can best prepare for surges today by using models to estimate what capacity strains they may face based on current and projected cases in their community.

Qventus is offering hospitals free access to its COVID-19 planning model to help visualize the timing of case surges. The solution, which is based on a modified SEIR (susceptible, exposed, infectious, recovered) model, offers projections and live scenario planning of demand for resources like PPE, staff and bed capacity at a hospital-specific level.

For its projections, the model uses real-time data like cases, populations, age cohorts and bed supply/occupancy, and considers 450 localized epidemiological models that are updated daily. 

The daily updates are "super critical because the amount of information on this disease given how novel it is is continually changing," Mr. Garg said. "To keep those models up to date at a localized level is critical for organizations to plan."

2. Create and manage capacity in the short-term

In the short-term, hospitals are facing two key capacity issues, Mr. Garg said: staff capacity (physicians and nurses) and physical resource constraints in terms of med-surg beds, ICU beds, negative airflow isolation rooms, and equipment. In this environment, getting staff trained to use new technologies represents an additional challenge.

Short-term solutions to these problems focus on partnering with a technology firm that can do the following:

  • Start bringing new capabilities live within days of receiving admissions, discharges and transfers
  • Implement packages that don't require front line engagement 
  • Shift most work from IT staff to technology partner
  • Start now and establish formal relationships later

"All health systems are under tremendous strain right now, especially on the front lines," Mr. Garg said. "It is well-recognized working to flatten the curve with strong predictive planning and creating virtual capacity is critical, but we have to balance how to do that in an environment where there is a lot going on."

Mr. Garg said Qventus partners have found technology that uses machine learning to optimize ICU and vent capacity helpful. He added that Qventus' Mission Control Center solution, which combines situational awareness and predictions of key COVID-19 resources and offers real-time "nudges" to resolve capacity issues, can go live in about seven days.

3. Create and manage capacity in the long-term

Should the COVID-19 pandemic lull in the summer and resurge in the fall, hospitals will need to hardwire capacity solutions into their operations to make sure fixes are lasting.

Long-term solutions for managing capacity include automating change management and patient flow activities. Qventus works with more than 120 provider partners to solve patient flow problems through automation. Organizations that have partnered with Qventus have reported transformative results, including up to 0.8 day reductions in inpatient length of stay, more than 15 percent decreases in emergency department length of stay, and 23 percent lower post-anesthesia care unit exit delays.

Conclusion

Whether it's addressing capacity issues today, tomorrow, or in the next year, one thing is certain: the more real-time information hospitals have on the pulse of their current operations and projected needs, the better. Meaningful data will enable hospitals to rise to the urgent challenges of COVID-19 — and future crises. 

To view the webinar, click here.

To learn more about the Qventus COVID-19 offerings, click here.

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