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Analytics Team Works with TGH to Determine Hospital Bed Availability in Different COVID-19 Scenarios

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (April 8, 2020) -- As the nation struggles against COVID-19, hospitals are mounting their own battle on the front lines of the viral war. One of their main weapons: hospital beds and ventilators. States and health care organizations are now scrambling to identify reasonable models for projecting what they will likely see over the next few days and weeks. Will hospitals and health care facilities have enough beds to care for the stricken along with patients admitted for other reasons?

In Tampa, the USF Center for Analytics and Creativity, housed in the Muma College of Business, is working with scientists and doctors at Tampa General Hospital to come up with some reasonable expectations about bed availability in various COVID-19 scenarios.

“Having estimates is crucial for planning,” said Shivendu Shivendu, associate professor and PhD coordinator in the Muma College of Business Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department. “To complicate matters, being too aggressive in inventory building, like stocking up on more ventilators than needed, can potentially hurt other units that need it. And not having enough when you need it can result in lost lives.”

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, a team of data scientists and researchers from the center is currently investigating different methodologies that can be used to estimate and forecast critical resources for patient care in the immediate future.

The team, led by Shivendu, Balaji Padmanabhan, director of the center, and doctoral students Saurav Chakraborty and Gaurav Jetley, is collaborating with Jason Wilson, Seetha Lakshmi and their teams at TGH on models to project the total number of COVID-19 cases in the community on a daily basis along with a projection of the total needed hospital resources like general beds, ICU beds and ventilators.

The collaboration has looked at three popular models used by many stakeholders in the United States, including a model from the University of Washington, one from the University of Pennsylvania and one from Stanford University. The team is currently working on how these models can best be used to take state projections, scale them down to the county level and finally the hospital level.

In this process, the team is working with TGH scientists and researchers to use daily statistics specific to the hospital to help fine-tune projections. The center’s team is also working with collaborators at TGH to consider alternate models based on standardized disease rates over time across communities.

“These popular models provide a good starting point,” said Padmanabhan, “but we do need to customize and adjust them for specifics of evolution of cases in Florida and then funnel them down to Tampa Bay’s surrounding counties and then to TGH.”

The research continues to test the robustness of projects and the teams from the center and TGH continue to meet to finalize projections for the coming weeks.

Tampa General Hospital serves a West Central Florida region that has some 4 million people and is licensed for 1,007 beds. The hospital has been affiliated with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine since the school was created in the early 1970s and is the primary teaching hospital for the medical school with more than 400 residents and fellows assigned for specialty training.

By Tuesday, nearly 15,000 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 in Florida, an increase of 1,100 cases from 24 hours earlier. Nearly 300 people have died. Hillsborough County reported 608 total cases, seven deaths and 95 hospitalizations.

Reaching out into the community during this time of need is part of the mantra of the Muma College of Business and the Center for Analytics and Creativity. The center also is conducting research for the city of Tampa on how better to protect the citizens of Tampa from COVID-19 infection and with the Tampa Bay Partnership, in a collaboration designed to come up with models that can predict the rebound of the local economy after the outbreak subsides.

"During these challenging times," said Moez Limayem, dean of the Muma College of Business, "our college is determined to be help our community in every way possible."