Hospital Ward Adaptation During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey of Academic Medical Centers

J Hosp Med. 2020 Aug;15(8):483-488. doi: 10.12788/jhm.3476.


Importance: Although intensive care unit (ICU) adaptations to the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have received substantial attention , most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have been in general medical units.

Objective: To characterize inpatient adaptations to care for non-ICU COVID-19 patients.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: A network of 72 hospital medicine groups at US academic centers.

Main outcome measures: COVID-19 testing, approaches to personal protective equipment (PPE), and features of respiratory isolation units (RIUs).

Results: Fifty-one of 72 sites responded (71%) between April 3 and April 5, 2020. At the time of our survey, only 15 (30%) reported COVID-19 test results being available in less than 6 hours. Half of sites with PPE data available reported PPE stockpiles of 2 weeks or less. Nearly all sites (90%) reported implementation of RIUs. RIUs primarily utilized attending physicians, with few incorporating residents and none incorporating students. Isolation and room-entry policies focused on grouping care activities and utilizing technology (such as video visits) to communicate with and evaluate patients. The vast majority of sites reported decreases in frequency of in-room encounters across provider or team types. Forty-six percent of respondents reported initially unrecognized non-COVID-19 diagnoses in patients admitted for COVID-19 evaluation; a similar number reported delayed identification of COVID-19 in patients admitted for other reasons.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has required medical wards to rapidly adapt with expanding use of RIUs and use of technology emerging as critical approaches. Reports of unrecognized or delayed diagnoses highlight how such adaptations may produce potential adverse effects on care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / methods*
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / organization & administration*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States / epidemiology