Many hospitals around the country are already operating at or near capacity and must take drastic steps to prepare for patients with COVID-19. Those preparations include following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams' recommendations: canceling elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements and other scheduled surgeries, such as for cancer patients.
For years, hospitals operating at capacity often have chosen to expand and add more beds to ease the pain. But research on "optimizing patient flow" has shown that there are steps that hospitals can take to manage their bed capacity to mitigate or forestall the need to expand—and that are especially urgent to take right now to cope with COVID-19.
In an op-ed in Modern Healthcare, experts gave hospitals these five suggestions:
- Form an internal rapid-response group to control patient flow. This group should report directly to the CEO.
- Evaluate and categorize all types of patients in the near-term caseload.
- Put in place new mandatory procedures to speed the discharge of patients patients early in the day and on weekends.
- Perform urgent and elective surgeries on nights and weekends as well as weekdays.
- Move to "full-capacity protocol." Instead of boarding all patients in the emergency department, move many to other floors in the hospital, even if they're in hallways or conference rooms. This step will alleviate the burden on EDs and improve patient care and safety overall.