BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As the Covid-19 pandemic wanes in the United States, hospitals nationwide may not be prepared for the next pandemic, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center. The study was published last month in the Journal of Healthcare Management.

The study’s lead author, Dr. David Marcozzi, professor of emergency medicine at the school of medicine and the chief clinical officer and hospital senior vice president, and his colleagues developed and published a surge index tool that linked standard reported hospital information to healthcare preparedness elements.

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The tool, called the Hospital Medical Surge Preparedness Index (HMSPI), used data from 2005 to 2014 to produce a score designed to predict how well a hospital can handle a sudden influx in patients due to a mass shooting or infectious disease outbreak. Such data included the size of the medical staff, the number of hospital beds, and the amount of equipment and supplies.

Medical surge capacity is an important measure to assess a hospital’s ability to expand quickly beyond normal services to meet increased demand for healthcare, according to a statement from the school of medicine.

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The Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017, for example, sent more than 500 concertgoers to local hospitals. During the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City hospitals were under siege with 4,000 patients hospitalized. To calculate the HMSPI, researchers input data from four important metrics:

  • Staff: Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory technicians and others
  • Supplies: Personal protective equipment, cardiac monitors, sterile bandages, and ventilators
  • Space: Total beds and number of beds that current staff can handle
  • Systems: Framework for enabling electronic sharing of files and information between departments and multiple hospitals

Marcozzi and his colleagues used data from the American Hospital Association’s annual surveys of more than 6,200 hospitals nationwide that were collected from 2005 to 2014. They also employed data from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine population estimates in cities and the Dartmouth Atlas Project to establish the geographic service area of each hospital. They combined the hospital metrics gleaned from the AHA’s annual surveys with the geographic data to calculate HMSPI composite scores for hospitals in each state.

Their evaluation found varying levels of increases in HMSPI scores from 2005 to 2014 in every state, which could indicate that states are becoming better prepared to handle a medical surge. The scores also indicated that ideal readiness had not yet been achieved in any state before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CBS Baltimore Staff