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2 Weeks, 80,000 Beds: Helping Hospitals Prepare for COVID-19

Epic partners with public health departments, state governments, and 175 health systems to support a rapid expansion of the nation's bed capacity

COVID-19 pandemic is threatening hospital capacity across the U.S. Epic has helped hospitals and public health authorities prepare to add up to 80,000 beds nationwide by donating software and staff to transform existing hospital areas and stand up new field hospitals to treat patients with COVID-19.

“Health systems are faced with an influx of patients,” said Jackie Gerhart, a physician on Epic’s Clinical Informatics team. “They’re asking us for guidance on how to quickly add capacity. Some hospitals are expanding into lunchrooms and converting rehab units to ICUs. Some states and public health departments are working with health systems to set up healthcare facilities in schools, hotels, gymnasiums, parking garages, and fairgrounds. Epic is partnering with these groups to get facilities up and running, and we offer a roadmap.”

In the last two weeks, Epic has worked with public health departments, state governments, and 175 health systems. New healthcare facilities are being set up in cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, and St. Louis. Epic is helping increase capacity in two ways:  (1) at the health systems’ request, adding beds in existing hospital areas, and (2) at the state’s request, creating new hospitals in alternative facilities the state selects. To help the states understand how to support the operations of new sites, teams work through a list of considerations, including:

  • What types of patients will be seen at the new alternative care facility?
  • Will all patients be adults?
  • Will there be ventilated patients?
  • Will patients be directly admitted to the facility or come from other hospitals?
  • Will there be an ICU?
  • Will patients leave this site for imaging or dialysis?
  • Will physical therapy, social services, or respiratory therapy be offered?
  • What devices will providers use: smartphones, tablets, or laptops?
  • Will patients be discharged to home or other facilities?
  • How will food be delivered, and from where will it be sourced?
  • How will other government entities be involved? For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, military, or department of public health.

“Seeing an increase in numbers of COVID-19 patients, we had to adapt existing spaces or create new facilities to handle the surge,” said Jeff Kalish, Associate CMIO at Boston Medical Center and the Physician IT Lead for re-opening the East Newton Pavilion, a closed off-campus hospital. “We partnered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to develop a plan to address the needs of our most vulnerable population—homeless and housing-unstable patients. It was a Herculean effort to prepare and re-open the East Newton Pavilion, but our multi-disciplinary teams came together seamlessly, and with Epic’s partnership and detailed project plan we successfully accomplished this feat within three and a half days.”

Epic is working on capacity surge and expansion projects in the majority of states in the U.S.

Photo caption: Epic software is used to care for COVID-19 patients at Ryan F. Larkin Field Hospital inside the Columbia University Baker Athletic Complex / Photo credit: Christopher Mei, New York Presbyterian.