Story at a glance

  • Researchers studied personnel and equipment data from 6,200 hospitals in the U.S., finding none were “adequately” ready for surges in admissions.
  • Data is limited, looking at a period from 2005 to 2014.
  • This follows the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when health care systems were overrun with patients.

One of the most jarring components of the COVID-19 pandemic during its first wave of infections was how quickly the virus overtook hospitals across the U.S. Nearly every hospital system was shocked by the influx of patients in relation to how many beds and medical resources they had available. 

This surge in admissions and subsequent dwindling of supplies was a hallmark of the pandemic and informed public health policy moving forward.

A new study notes that despite the lessons learned earlier in the pandemic, most hospitals remain unprepared for another potential surge in patients. A total of 6,200 hospitals nationwide were sampled. 

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine led a study analyzing the Hospital Medical Surge Preparedness Index (HMSPI), a metric used to understand hospitals’ ability to respond to a mass influx of patients. Some of the inputs to calculate an HMSPI score include per capita data from the U.S. Census Bureau between the years of 2005 to 2014 and surveys from the American Hospital Association (AHA), among other resources.


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Some of the figures specifically looked at the number of hospital staff, beds and equipment.

The study ultimately found that while there have been observed increases in HMSPI scores among county and state hospitals and medical clinics, there is no statistically significant difference in HMSPI scores between 2013 and 2014, implying a lack of updates to hospital surge preparedness. 

"Our work links objective healthcare data to a hospital score that assesses the ability to save lives in a disaster," said study lead author David Marcozzi, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at UMSOM and Chief Clinical Officer/Senior Vice President at the University of Maryland medical college. "It attempts to fill a glaring gap in the national conversation on the need for improved assessments of and the opportunity for better hospital planning to assure readiness."

While HMSPI scores varied between each hospital, the study ultimately noted that “ideal readiness” had not yet been secured in any state prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers note that the data used for this study is somewhat limited and call for more research to avoid an overrun on hospitals.

"This is just the starting point. We need to better understand the ability of our nation's hospitals to save lives in times of crisis," said Marcozzi. “This pioneering work is a needed advancement that could allow for a transparent assessment of a hospital's ability to save lives in a large-scale emergency."


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Published on Jul 09, 2021