HHS offers tool to assess hospital staff needs for bioterrorism response

Jun 27, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering a new computer model to help hospitals and health systems estimate how many staff members they would need to dispense antibiotics or vaccinate people in response to bioterrorism or a major disease outbreak.

"This new resource is the nation's first computerized staffing model that can be downloaded as a spreadsheet and used to calculate the specific needs of local health care systems based on the number of staff they have and the number of patients they would need to treat quickly in a bioterrorism event," the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) stated in a news release yesterday. The AHRQ funded development of the model.

Researchers at Weill Medical College of Cornell University created the model after testing various patient triage and drug-dispensing plans, the AHRQ said. The researchers evaluated the responses of New York City and Washington, DC, to the 2001 anthrax attacks and examined large-scale drills in New York City and Arizona involving simulated anthrax attacks. They also evaluated bioterrorism response models developed by California, Florida, Illinois, and other states.

Using elements from those plans, the research team developed two "best practice" clinic designs that could be used to respond to a bioterrorism attack or a natural disease outbreak requiring antibiotics or vaccinations, the AHRQ said. The team was led by Nathaniel Hupert, MD, MPH.

"The computer model released today allows health care systems planners to estimate the number and type of staff required to operate these clinics in order to provide an entire community with critical medical supplies in an efficient and timely fashion," the AHRQ said. "The model can be downloaded to run on common spreadsheet software and customized for use by health officials at all levels of government, hospital administration, and emergency medical planning."

The software program can be accessed at http://archive.ahrq.gov/research/biomodel.htm.

The computer model is one of 28 bioterrorsim preparedness research projects sponsored by the AHRQ, with funds from the HHS Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and the Health Resources and Services Administration, the agency said. The AHRQ is spending about $10 million in fiscal year 2003 funds on these projects.

See also:

AHRQ news release
http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2003/btmodpr.htm

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