How to think about hospital/ICU occupancy

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

This article belongs to a three-part series written for anyone that is looking to understand why experts are expressing concern about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. Part one explains what the number of hospitalized patients actually means, part two explains why hospital bed distribution is important, and part three covers the nuances of hospital and ICU occupancy.

What is hospital/ICU occupancy and why does it matter?

The concept of hospital/bed occupancy predates the COVID-19 pandemic, it reflects:

  • availability of medical resources (the supply),
  • number of patients in need of hospitalization (the demand), and
  • how quickly patients are treated and discharged from the hospital (patient turnover)

Aside: each of these merit further…


How to break down the raw numbers like a pro

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

This article belongs to a three-part series written for anyone that is looking to understand why experts are expressing concern about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. Part one explains what the number of hospitalized patients actually means, part two explains why hospital bed distribution is important, and part three covers the nuances of hospital and ICU occupancy.

On September 20th, U.S. Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a nadir not seen since mid-June.

Just one month later, the trend is moving in the opposite direction at an alarming rate, threatening to overwhelm resources in communities with limited hospital capacity.


Hospital haves and have nots

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

This article belongs to a three-part series written for anyone that is looking to understand why experts are expressing concern about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. Part one explains what the number of hospitalized patients actually means, part two explains why hospital bed distribution is important, and part three covers the nuances of hospital and ICU occupancy.

According to the latest figures from the American Hospital Association, there are 792,417 staffed beds in community hospitals serving the general public (i.e. excludes military, prison, and college infirmaries) — this includes beds in all kinds of intensive care units:


I have political opinions, and I intend to keep those to myself. For context, however, I will share that I have voted in favor of policies and people that span the full political spectrum. Today, the White House crossed a line that transcends political affiliations and cuts deep into the very fabric of our democracy. Today’s daily (public) press briefing was replaced with a closed-door meeting that excluded certain media outlets.

To me, the names of the media outlets involved is an irrelevant detail on par with the explanation offered by the Administration for this unprecedented action. What moved me…


In an earlier post I introduced the idea that information gaps created by EHRs threaten to undermine the strategic position of many health tech companies. In this post I expand on this idea by illustrating the current state of the health tech economy, and highlight the different ways in which companies depend on access to EHR-derived data. In the interest of giving credit where credit is due: I’d like to acknowledge that this post was inspired by Chris Dixon’s excellent overview of the Internet Economy.

As with internet businesses, understanding a health tech company’s strategic position requires an understanding of…


The Great Recession sparked the health tech revolution

Until very recently, paper was the primary storage medium for our nation’s healthcare system. In 2009 the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) earmarked $30B in federal funds to incentivize health care providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) in an effort to modernize our nation’s healthcare system. By most measures, this program was wildly successful: in 2008, only 9.4% of health care providers used EHRs, by 2015 EHR adoption jumped to 83.8%. Today, 96% of community hospitals rely on EHR technology.

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Source: Adoption of Electronic Health Record Systems among U.S. Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals: 2008–2015.

From an insider’s perspective, EHR adoption felt like it progressed at breakneck speed. In 2010 I was a…

Jorge A. Caballero, MD

COVID-19 data guru | health data whisperer | co-founder of codersagainstcovid.org | Instructor at Stanford Anesthesia | firm believer that Black Lives Matter

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