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Pandemic prompts statewide network of hospital resources

A new tool monitors COVID diagnoses and 90% of hospital beds around state
close up of a digital screen showing hospital capacity
Hospital capacity and positive COVID-19 cases for 90% of hospital beds in Oregon are visible via a new data aggregation tool. The COVID Capacity Center is housed in OHSU's Mission Control Center. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Oregon health care systems have adopted the equivalent of a 6,000-bed statewide network to manage a surge in patient volumes across the entire state.

The new initiative, enabled by GE Healthcare technology in partnership with Oregon Health & Science University and other health systems across the state, allows health systems to see and react to hospital capacity statewide rather than attempting to manage the surge on a piecemeal hospital-by-hospital approach.

The COVID Capacity Center actively monitors real-time hospital data to inform patient intake and care. The center now includes 90% of all hospital beds statewide.

Fortunately, Oregon appears to have avoided its hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, due to strong actions by state authorities as well as personal and economic sacrifices by Oregon citizens and businesses.

However, the new initiative will have long-lasting benefits in managing new upticks in COVID-19 patients in the next year or two. In addition, health systems will be able to use the new tool over the long term to help manage resources across hospitals during annual outbreaks of seasonal influenza.

Openly sharing the availability of resources in this way is new territory for health systems that have traditionally vied as competitors in the marketplace.

Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D.
Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D.

“This tool will be useful in managing demand for hospital beds any time we have an influx of patients that exceeds one hospital system’s capacity. It will help all Oregonians to avoid decisions being made in silos,” said Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical capacity officer and professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Oregon is really leading the way for the United States.”

The Oregon Health Authority foresaw the need for better coordination between hospitals, especially between rural and urban areas, and encouraged Oregon health systems to come together to manage an expected statewide surge in demand for hospital beds, staff and equipment such as ventilators.

In effect, the system expands a project that GE Healthcare began in 2017 to improve OHSU’s management of bed capacity across a health system that includes Tuality Healthcare and Adventist Health Portland.

The new system includes:

  • Hospital capacity management: a centralized, statewide look at real-time data, including what regions are seeing an uptick in positive diagnoses and which hospitals have capacity for COVID patient intake. In Oregon, bed-level status data for each ICU bed, negative pressure bed, acute bed and soon critical equipment such as each ventilator in hospitals and facilities across the state is being updated 480 times per day, which will be essential when capacity is scarce. 
  • Operational efficiency: Real-time access to data to reduce churn and alleviates stress for health care workers around critical care decision making, such as assigning ICU beds and other specialty beds.
  • Data privacy: Data is stripped of protected health information to guard patient privacy.



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