In March 2020, as the pandemic was just getting started in the U.S., we took a closer look at hospital capacity in communities across the nation, revealing significant differences in readiness. We developed a model built on bed capacity data for each of 306 U.S. hospital markets —so called Hospital Referral Regions (HRR) —to provide important localized estimates of available beds, and beds needed to accommodate COVID-19 patients. We later added the same calculations for Canada.
Resources and Space
We collaborated with ProPublica and worked with The New York Times to fact-check, interpret, contextualize and visualize the data for policy makers, hospitalists and citizens alike. “Pandemics are a time when we need to share information fast, but we also need to be accurate and explain what our estimates mean, especially when they are scary estimates,” says Stefanie Friedhoff, director of content and strategy at the Brown School of Public Health and a veteran journalist. “So we felt it was important to work with some of the best journalists in the nation on getting this right.”
“Our goal is to give hospital leaders and policy makers a clear sense of when they will hit capacity, and strategic information on how to prepare for rising numbers of patients with COVID-19 needing care,” says Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health.
Crucially, we are providing this information at a local, hospital market specific level. National averages are not very helpful in this context. It’s irrelevant to a person in Utah how many hospital beds are available in Boston, we won’t be transferring large numbers of people to different hospitals. But specific, localized data provides a pathway to understanding what we need to do to get hospitals ready.”