Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tracking Hospital Bed Availability During Emergencies

Unlike the underdeveloped nations, there no shortage of hospital beds in the US. And considering the normal course of affairs, about 2.5 million hospital beds that are in use in the US are sufficient. But if everyone in the country needed one of these items of hospital furniture at once, they won't be sufficient.

Now considering a worst case scenario, this sort of a situation is possible in case of a public health emergency or a bioterrorist event. In order to make it easy for organizations to track the availability of beds in such a case the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed standard hospital bed definitions to enable hospital systems and emergency responders seeking beds to know and understand each other's language.

The following are the classification of hospital beds to help emergency responders to communicate better.

Licensed Beds: These pieces of medical furniture refers to the maximum number of beds for which a hospital holds a license to operate. For many hospitals the number of beds in operation is less than the all of the beds for which they are licensed.

Physically Available Beds: These hospital beds are licensed, physically set up, and available for use. Further, these beds are periodically maintained in the hospital for the use of patients, which supply accommodations coupled with support services viz. food, housekeeping, laundry, etc. However, these beds may or may not be staffed despite being physically available.

Staffed Beds: These are beds licensed and physically available, and there's also staff available to attend to the patient using the bed. Staffed beds make up both the occupied ones as well as the vacant ones.

Unstaffed Beds: Just like staffed beds these too are licensed and physically available, however they don't have no current staff on hand to take care of the patient, if one were to occupy it.

Occupied Beds: These beds are licensed, physically available, staffed, and occupied by a patient. Simply put, they are in use.

Vacant/Available Beds: As the title suggests these beds are vacant and are available for occupation by patients immediately. Also, for a bed to be called “Available,” these beds must include supporting space, equipment, medical material, ancillary and support services, and staff to operate under normal circumstances. In addition, these beds are licensed, physically available, and have staff on hand to attend to the patient who occupies the bed.

So many classes of beds, so that emergency responders can speak the same language

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