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Study looks at which regions had hospitals at risk for reaching capacity during pandemic

Kate Trout and Li-Wu Chen

July 1, 2021

Congratulations to Kate Trout, assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences, and Li-Wu Chen, chair and professor of the Department of Health Sciences, who co-authored article titled “Geographic distribution of bed occupancy during the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States: A nationwide study,” that was published in Health Science Reports.

This study looked at which regions and areas had overwhelmed health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Trout, “reaching capacity for inpatient or ICU beds will have negative consequences on health outcomes and the health care system, especially for communities that already have limited access to care—such as rural and underserved populations.”

The study found that West Virginia, Maine, Arkansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana were at high risk of reaching capacity (>70%) for both inpatient beds and ICU beds, and are part of the top 10 states with the highest population of older adults (60 years and older) living in rural counties without ICU beds. 

Even though inpatient occupancy for COVID-19 declined over the time period, trends overall for inpatient and ICU occupancy did not, indicating there may be indirect consequences of the pandemic on population health outcomes from delayed access to care.

“This research speaks to the importance of assessing health care system capacity as part of public health emergency preparedness for the pandemics, especially for rural communities and underserved populations,” Dr. Chen said.