Capacity to Care: How Full Are Our Hospitals?

New data dashboards monitor how many people are in the hospital – no matter the cause

data science analysis

Knowing how many hospital beds are available is especially critical when health threats strike. Hospital capacity data provides information that helps communities understand the stress on hospital systems, where best to direct resources, and how many people are sick at any given time.

In December 2022, collection of the nation’s hospital capacity data transferred to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. This includes data related to COVID-19, but also data on hospital capacity/occupancy for any disease or condition. These data are now shared with the public on CDC’s COVID data tracker.

The COVID tracker visualizes hospital capacity data over time that can help people see:

  • How many hospital beds are available overall
  • How many Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are available overall
  • How many hospital and ICU beds are being used for COVID-19 patients
  • How many pediatric hospital and ICU beds are available

These data were extremely useful in late 2022 when the nation was struck by the “triple threat” of COVID, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The data allowed us to look at the capacity of hospitals to care for patients during the surge. Many children were impacted by these viruses, and the data were used to actively monitor how many pediatric hospital beds and ICU beds were available for them.

We continue to make improvements that will modernize the data flow. For example, in 2022, CDC funded one state to establish a daily automated reporting feed of its state hospital capacity data to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. The funded pilot project will also explore how to expand data collection beyond this jurisdiction to include additional states. This is an important step toward reducing the burden that comes along with reporting this information quickly, consistently, and accurately.