HealthAffairs: Hospital Capacity And Projected Need for COVID-19 Patient Care

Harvard’s Thomas C. Tsai, Benjamin H. Jacobson, and Ashish K. Jha have released to HealthAffairs their projections for hospital capacity and projected need for COVID-19. An excerpt is below.

Based on work by Lispsitch and colleagues, we used a middle-level estimate of COVID-19 infection rate of 40 percent. We assumed lengths of stay based on published studies. We calculated the capacity gap between current bed occupancy and anticipated COVID-19 demand assuming six, 12 and 18 month transmission curves. In our primary model, we made the very aggressive assumption that 50 percent of currently occupied beds could be freed up to care for COVID-19 patients.

Nationally, based on 40 percent prevalence of COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic, we estimate that 98,876,254 individuals will be infected, 20,598,725 individuals will likely require hospitalization and 4,430,245 individuals will need ICU-level care. We found that inpatient and ICU bed capacity to handle expected patient volumes varied significantly by Hospital Referral Region (See exhibits 1 and 2).

If the infection curve is not flattened and the pandemic is concentrated in a 6-month period, that would leave a capacity gap of 1,373,248 inpatient beds (274 percent potentially available capacity) and 295,350 ICU beds (508 percent potentially available capacity). If the curve of transmission is flattened to 12 months, then the needed inpatient and ICU beds would be reduced to 137 percent and 254 percent of current capacity. However, if hospitals can indeed reduce current bed occupancy by 50 percent and flatten the transmission curve to 18 months, then the capacity needed would be reduced to 89 percent of inpatient and 166 percent of ICU beds. If the infection rate is only 20 percent (low end of current estimates), we would largely be able to meet the needs for inpatient care if we flatten the curve to 12 months.

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2020, coronavirus, COVID-19, Massachusetts

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