US hospitals not “adequately” prepared for next pandemic, study finds

A 10-year analysis of hospital preparedness for pandemics and other mass events in the years leading up to COVID-19 warns that the country’s health system may not be sufficiently prepared for the next one. For the study, a team of researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center used a surge index tool called the Hospital Medical Surge Preparedness Index (HMSPI) to assess data from over 6,200 hospitals nationwide.

The hospitals had participated in the annual surveys of the American Hospital Association. The team also used census data to determine population estimates in various cities and service geographies and combined them with survey information to calculate the HMSPI score.

Parameters assessed in the HMSPI included personnel, supplies, space such as the total number of beds staff can manage, and systems, including a framework for electronic information sharing.

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While the team saw varying degrees of improvement in some areas over the years, they also said the scores indicated that “ideal preparedness had not yet been achieved in any state prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.” .

Between 2005 and 2014, Montana saw the largest increase in HMSPI scores, with the smallest increase noted in Nevada. Improvements across the country appeared to level off in the last year of data.

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The team concluded that “after more than $ 5 billion in federal investment in disaster preparedness since the 9/11 attacks, hospitals and health systems across the country continue to struggle to prepare for disasters.”

the full results were published last month in the Journal of Healthcare Management, according to a press release.

“This is just the starting point,” said David Marcozzi, MD, professor of emergency medicine at UMSOM and clinical director / senior vice president of UMMC and lead author of the study. “We need to better understand the ability of hospitals in our country to save lives in times of crisis. ”

Marcozzi said follow-up research may involve data from the COVID-19 pandemic to see how hospital preparedness is impacting patient outcomes.

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“This pioneering work is a necessary step forward that could allow a transparent assessment of a hospital’s ability to save lives in a large-scale emergency,” said Marcozzi. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that there is still a lot of room for improving the capacity of our country’s health system to triage and manage multiple patients in a crisis and this translates into lives. lost, needlessly. Our research is dedicated to those who lost their lives in its tragedy and other events that claimed many lives. We can do better. ”

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