COVID-19 Milestones and Hospital Operations Planning

April 15, 2020

April 15 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

With each passing day, we gain more perspective on our progress. While it may not feel this way from day to day, Penn Medicine is now midway through its sixth full week of managing COVID-19 patients, beginning March 1. Our teams have successfully cared for many COVID-19 patients, and I am happy to report that more than half have already been discharged. As we continue to understand this virus, we are developing new guidelines and protocols to optimize care for these patients. The really good news is that we have not been seeing an increase in new COVID-19 admissions over the past few days. 

Another significant milestone: since Penn Medicine expanded its telemedicine services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 9,000 clinicians have been trained to offer telemedicine appointments across a variety of specialties. More than 106,000 patient visits have been completed via audio, video or phone calls since March 16.

The Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics has put together a useful summary of how Penn Medicine developed a web-based model for COVID-19 hospital planning. This publicly available tool was designed for hospital operations leaders to estimate the resources they would need to care for the surge of patients likely seen in the upcoming weeks and months and to be able to explore different scenarios and understand the range of likely possibilities.

I was fascinated by this New York Times 3-D simulation on why social and physical distancing is so important. CDC recommendations are to stay at least six feet away from others if you must be in public. This distance will help avoid contact with respiratory droplets that are thought to be the main vectors of transmission and lower the risk of infection. A mask can also prevent large infectious droplets from landing on the nose and mouth and can disrupt the trajectory of a cough, sneeze or breath. Have a look at the simulation to see what this means for real-life scenarios.

I also want to share with you the inspiring Penn Medicine commercial video "Nothing Else Matters" that has already made quite a splash on social media and that seems to capture the spirit of the moment very nicely.

Finally, at Penn Medicine we have been discussing how we will get back to seeing patients with non-COVID related diseases. Although there is, appropriately, a lot of focus on the pandemic, ordinary illnesses and injuries are still very much present. I was reminded of that, quite painfully, as I attempted to check email and cook sourdough pancakes for breakfast at the same time this morning. I burned my hand on the skillet handle! Luckily, I did not drop the hot skillet on Captain the pug - who was hanging out at the stove hoping I would drop some food. So: do pay attention and be careful out there! 

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine