Computer simulations can be used to improve U.S. hospital disaster preparations, according to a study in the American Medical Associations Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal which modeled a release of poisonous sarin vapor in Manhattan public transportation centers that had the potential to expose some 22,000 people to its harmful effects leading to 178 intensive-care unit admissions.
Researchers used population statistics, and plugged in data on the New York City borough's healthcare resources such as available hospital beds, emergency department services, hospital surge capacity, variable exposure effects, and behavioral and psycho-social characteristics to mimic response to an attack.
According to the simulation report, A Novel Approach to Multihazard Modeling and Simulation, implementing disaster plans within 30 minutes compared to two hours diminished mortality and waiting times and reduced the number of patients who were severely affected.
Modeling was able to suggest how patients with minor injuries could overwhelm a system, and the researchers note that although the ED is the gateway to definitive care during a disaster, a total healthcare facility approach must be taken to limit delays.
Despite the elegance of some disaster computer models, the researchers wrote many simulations lack the ability to realistically include the multiple elements found in a disaster scenario. Researchers at the New York University School of Medicines department of emergency medicine worked to develop a multiagent-based disaster simulation platform" they called PLAN C, for Planning with Large Agent Networks against Catastrophes.
The authors noted how available public data sets allowed for model portability to simulate scenarios for Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.