Responding to the national surge in Covid-19 patients at hospitals, researchers at Stanford University have created online calculators to help policy makers and hospital administrators everywhere better allocate their staff and equipment.
Americans were told over the weekend that the worst days are ahead. Confirmed infections in the U.S. stood at more than 357,000 Monday, with the death toll at 10,524, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Without widespread testing, however, officials don’t have enough data to fully answer key questions, such as how many people actually are infected or the typical transmission rate per person. Hospitals may not see an oncoming wave of patients because many aren’t tested until they go to an emergency room.
David Scheinker, a professor at Stanford University, leads a research team called Systems Utilization Research for Stanford Medicine, or SURF Stanford Medicine.
Felipe Baesler / Universidad del Desarrollo
“It’s insanely hard to model this,” said David Scheinker, a professor at Stanford University.
The calculators, on the other hand, use just a few trusted data points to give health-care providers and policy makers an understanding of what’s ahead and their short-term personnel and supply needs, according to Mr. Scheinker. He leads a research team called Systems Utilization Research for Stanford Medicine, or SURF Stanford Medicine.
The Morning Download delivers daily insights and news on business technology from the CIO Journal team.
SURF created the calculators with help from the faculty of the Stanford schools of medicine and engineering.
One SURF calculator estimates the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations, acute hospitalizations and intensive care unit hospitalizations a county or group of counties can expect to see in the next few days and weeks. The other projects the ICU, ventilator and staffing requirements an individual hospital may need.
“Most hospitals recognize that they are flying a little bit in the dark because they didn’t have tools like this,” said Laura Craft, a vice president and analyst at research and advisory company
who focuses on health care. “The evolution of these kinds of tools…are really important.”
For the regional calculator, a user selects the name of a county and state from a menu. The tools then pull in Census Bureau data on the area’s population, with age ranges; American Hospital Association data on the number of acute-care and ICU beds in the region; and New York Times updates of the number of confirmed cases in the area. The tool also gathers data on the length of hospitalization for Covid-19 patents, which the SURF team updates as generally accepted medical information becomes available.
The user then adds a few pieces of information, including the number of people hospitalized so far at a hospital in the region and, most important, the “doubling time,” or the number of days after which Covid-19 hospitalizations will double in the area.
“Anyone who is doing any planning for this—estimating the doubling time for their region is the No. 1 thing they think about. So it’s a reasonable estimate to expect people to have,” said Mr. Scheinker.
The tool then calculates the hospitalizations, acute hospitalizations and ICU hospitalizations for the region. A button on the calculators allows users to select how many days into the future they would like the tool to calculate.
The team built the calculators with open-source tools, including R, a programming language for statistical analysis, and R Shiny, a package used to create web applications. Alejandro Martinez, chief executive of Matrix Intuition Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif., information technology services company doing business as MatrixDS, consulted on the project and provided additional software support.
The second calculator, designed for individual hospitals, runs on much of the same data as the regional tool. Once a hospital enters information about its patient population, ICU and ventilator counts, and other data, the tool calculates how many ICU beds, acute-care beds, and ventilators staffed by doctors and nurses the facility will need to treat Covid-19 patients in the coming weeks.
The SURF team built a version of that calculator specifically for Stanford Health Care. Stanford Hospital, the system’s main campus, is using it to match resources such as bed capacity, staffing and equipment to projected patient numbers, according to Kristan Staudenmayer, associate professor of surgery at Stanford University. Dr. Staudenmayer said the tool helped Stanford Hospital determine it would need to approximately double the number of ventilators it has on hand in the next few weeks.
Write to John McCormick at email@example.com
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8