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Hospital Covid Needs Soon Tracked, Flagged for Health Officers (1)

Dec. 4, 2020, 6:15 PM; Updated: Dec. 4, 2020, 6:55 PM

State health officials will soon have access to a federal data platform that tracks hospitals’ staffing and equipment needs during the Covid-19 pandemic and alerts the government when facilities are running low, a top Health and Human Services Department official told Bloomberg Law.

The platform, a “health-care resilience control tower,” will be presented to the nation’s governors soon, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec said in an interview. It will include data on emergency beds, staff, personal protective equipment,and ventilators.

Health-care workers still don’t have access to adequate PPE, although the situation has vastly improved since the beginning of the pandemic. Staffing shortages also are occurring at some overwhelmed hospitals. The control tower could allow state and federal officials to identify problem regions and address shortages by redeploying staff from other places.

The control tower will “represent a more comprehensive holistic look at what health-care systems need to basically not only be resilient, but functional,” he said.

Advance Warning

The tool will be particularly useful with shortages in certain areas, Kadlec said. The platform can be set up so an alarm goes off if, for example, a hospital reports it only has one day of PPE left.

If that happens, the HHS can notify the state health officials and ask hospital administrators what their facility needs. The agency can then either help find a commercial provider or send supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Strategic National Stockpile.

The tool is in preliminary stages and will work with an existing “supply chain IT control tower” that tracks manufacturers and distributors of health-care equipment. The supply chain platform includes data on production capacity, forecast demand, and target distribution.

The new hospital-oriented tool will also allow officials to follow trends in Covid-19 cases, positive test rates, and hospital admissions to “predict within several days where we think we’re going to run into problems,” and work collaboratively to “address whatever shortfalls may be coming” Kadlec said.

The data will come from information hospitals are already submitting to the federal government. State and local health officials will be able to easily access the information.

Kadlec said the platform is eventually expected to include other health-care facilities like nursing homes. But those facilities are far greater in number and currently aren’t sharing the same level of data with the government as hospitals.

(Updates timing for presentation to governors in second paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Shira Stein in Washington at sstein@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloombergindustry.com

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