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Free online COVID-19 surge planning tool available to hospitals


April 9, 2020

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci, HealthLeaders Media

A newly developed modeling tool to predict hospital capacity needs during the COVID-19 pandemic is available online and free to the public.

The COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics (CHIME), developed by researchers at University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS), has already informed decision-making at both the system and government levels.

"Publicly available and designed for hospital operations leaders, this modeling tool can inform preparations for capacity strain during the early days of a pandemic," the authors wrote in an Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers developed best- and worst-case scenarios for COVID-19 surges within UPHS. Using patients with COVID-19 alone, CHIME estimated:

  • That it would be 31 to 53 days before demand exceeds existing hospital capacity
  • The needed total capacity for hospital beds would reach 3,131 (best case) to 12,650 (worst case) across the UPHS's three city-based hospitals, including 338 (best case) to 1,608 (worst case) ICU beds and 118 (best case) to 599 (worst case) ventilators.

These estimates have already affected how the system is doing business.

"The rapid development and data visualizations provided by CHIME to estimate clinical needs for patients with COVID-19 directly informed our health system's planning for its 3 city-based hospitals in several ways," the researchers wrote.

They outlined how using three examples:


  • Taking early action: The models provided support and consensus for making decisions like reducing elective surgeries and declining outside transfers before the system was actually strained.
  • Expanding surge planning: These included decreasing current acute care volume; dedicating units to COVID-19–only care; personal protective and ventilator equipment conservation and acquisition; expanding ICU care into ICU-like care spaces and wards; and expanding ward care into unused clinical spaces, among other actions.
  • Continuing needed construction: The system was able to use the projections to successfully petition the Pennsylvania government for a waiver from its prohibition on continued operation of construction companies. Doing so is allowing for around-the-clock construction of a new hospital tower that will provide 119 new hospital beds that will become usable during the projected surge. (Piedmont has done something similar).

Hospital and health system leaders can access the tool to predict their own surges by accessing it at penn-chime.phl.io.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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