Colorado Hospital Association Hospital Transfer Center Alleviates Strain and Supports Patient Transfers Across the State
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Colorado hospitals faced challenges with hospital capacity, patient transfer, and load balancing. In November 2020, the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) established a collaborative and data-driven system to help manage patient transfers and alleviate hospital strain. By February 2022, Colorado’s Combined Hospital Transfer Center (CHTC) transferred a total of 50,857 patients.
Throughout its activation, the CHTC evolved, increasing its resources, building relationships between its stakeholders, and creating a blueprint for managing hospital capacity and patient transfers in Colorado. Since its deactivation on March 1, 2022, CHTC stakeholders have begun holding quarterly meetings to maintain the relationships formed by the CHTC, while also planning and updating the team. During these meeting, stakeholders have the opportunity to discuss ways the CHTC’s COVID-19 response infrastructure may be expanded to take an all-hazards approach. This approach will help Colorado hospitals manage patients during events such as wildfires, building on existing relationships established during the initial activation of the CHTC. The creation of the CHTC built the digital and physical infrastructure needed to support future hospital surges and patient transfers within Colorado.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Colorado hospitals faced challenges with hospital capacity, patient transfer, and load balancing. The state of Colorado did not have a statewide patient transfer system. As COVID-19 continued to increase hospitalization rates across the state, hospital system Chief Medical Officers, the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA), and state leadership saw the strain its hospitals were under and identified a need for a coordinated system to manage hospital capacity and patient transfers across the state. In November 2020, the CHA established a collaborative and data-driven system that would manage patient transfers and alleviate strained hospitals.
The CHTC connected hospitals across Colorado, forming a network of beds and resources, while simultaneously building relationships between smaller rural hospitals and larger medical systems across the state. The Transfer Center functioned as a tiered system, using an online information management system to provide real time hospital capacity which informed patient transfers. The tiered system was made up of three tiers, each indicating the level of coordination between hospitals. Tier 1 connected smaller rural hospitals to nearby larger hospitals with more resources, personal protective equipment, and staff to handle patients. Building on the relationships between smaller rural hospitals and larger medical systems, Tier 2 initiated bidirectional transfers between these hospitals to ensure staff and resources at both hospitals were maximized while delivering optimal patient care. Finally, in Tier 3, the highest tier, patient transfers and hospital collaborations expanded beyond a regional level, connecting hospitals and resources across the state.
In addition, each tier involved increased communication between CHTC stakeholders. Meeting cadence went from monthly meetings in Tier 1 to weekly meetings in Tier 2, to then become daily meetings in Tier 3, providing an opportunity for capacity to be evaluated in real time while ensuring transfers were organized in a timely manner. These meetings and the overall collaborations created relationships that became key to the success of the CHTC.