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Tools to Help Manage COVID-19

Software tools to improve situational awareness and decision making during COVID-19 response.

by Buffalo Computer Graphics, Inc. / April 7, 2020
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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights how important it is for emergency managers to have easy access to real-time situational awareness information. The speed at which the situation is changing can be overwhelming for anyone and making sure decisions are made based on the latest data is critical for saving lives and keeping our healthcare system operational. That is why it is crucial to not just have the best most up-to-date information, but to display it in a way that can be quickly digested and acted upon. In addition to accessing the right data, responders need to be able to track information for both managing tasks and for after-action-reporting.

BCG recommends the following tools to ensure responders have all the information they need to successfully manage this crisis:

  • Bed Tracking
  • Quarantine Facilities Management
  • Common Operational Picture Map
  • Situational Awareness Dashboards
  • Mobile Functionality
  • Asset Tracking
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Tracking
  • Financial Tracking

Recommendations for how these tools should function are described next.

Bed Tracking

With a 20% hospitalization rate, COVID-19 poses a huge risk of overwhelming any healthcare system. A bed tracking solution can help provide critical situational awareness to senior level emergency managers tasked with maintaining a functioning medical system.

BCG’s bed tracking solution is used to track and report on facility bed availability, services availability, and overall facility status. Data from numerous facilities can easily be entered/updated and aggregated to provide a comprehensive overview of facility (patient) capacity, capabilities, limitations, and needs.

Quarantine Facilities Management

Tracking the availability of quarantine facilities will be essential as more individuals test positive for the virus. Manual processes will likely not be enough to identify potential sites and manage capacity levels.

BCG’s sheltering software can be utilized to track and manage quarantine facilities as well as the patient populations within them. Additionally, the software can be used to track the movement of people between facilities.

Common Operational Picture Map

Having a list of addresses isn’t nearly as helpful as placing that information on a map. Maps allow users to take a large amount of information and understand how they relate to each other geographically. The right mapping tools will allow responders to look at multiple different types of information simultaneously for improved situational awareness.

BCG’s GIS tools allow users to fuse together geospatial information from virtually any external or internal source onto one common display. User-friendly tools allow users to interact with underlying data. For example, these tools can be used to track COVID-19 resource stockpiles.

Situational Awareness Dashboards

Like maps, dashboards make it easier to quickly understand changing information by turning into a more visual format. Custom dashboards can be created for specific roles, incidents, and stakeholder groups. This ensures that everyone can easily view the information pertinent to them and efficiently perform their response roles.

Similar to our mapping tools, BCG’s status boards can display information from a variety of internal and external sources, including both user-generated content and automated feeds. Information can be displayed as text, interactive reports, images, maps, charts, graphs, and other display types.

In addition to user created custom dashboards, BCG also creates boards that can be used by any customer. For example, BCG has put together different ArcGIS based boards specifically for COVID-19 response efforts. Each board is based upon publicly available CDC/WHO data that is currently being updated on an ongoing basis. In this way users can leverage both organization specific custom dashboards and boards created by experts in the field.

Mobile Functionality

Now more than ever, the ability to work from anywhere on any device is critical. Working from mobile devices means responders don’t need to gather in a centralized location in order to work on a response. This saves time and adheres to social distancing policies. In addition to performing a variety of response tasks, mobile apps are specifically well suited for collecting patient data at homes or within clinics and collecting facility information as needed.

BCG’s Incident Management Systems are designed to allow the system to be accessed from any mobile device. It includes a specific mobile responder app designed for disaster area use, which can function regardless of connectivity. Mobile forms can be rapidly created and deployed to field workers. Forms can be filled in offline and then published to the system when connectivity is restored. Field data can be aggregated and displayed on dashboards to provide critical situational awareness.

Asset Tracking

In the frenzy of an ongoing response, it is easy to lose track of equipment and other assets. Without proper tracking, precious time can be lost trying to locate lifesaving resources in warehouses during a response and after a response it may be difficult to retrieve expensive equipment from multiple locations. Accurate asset tracking saves time and money.

BCG’s asset tracking provides a way for users to track deployed assets and resources for an incident and quickly view the status, quantity, and location of all deployed assets in the asset ledger. It integrates with most asset tracking devices for quick and easy tracking of personnel and equipment.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Tracking

Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of the biggest challenges facing medical personnel right now. Knowing current stockpile levels, current need, and which outside partners have resources available are critical to keeping first responders safe.

BCG has a number of tools to help track, distribute, and account for PPE. Inventory counts can be filled in from the mobile responder app from stockpile warehouses and hospitals, or automatically updated through integrations with current stockpile software. This information can then be aggregated and displayed in PPE tracking dashboards. Dashboards can be used to monitor incoming and stockpiled supplies across multiple facilities, identify areas of need, and match them up to available resources. As current stockpiles are depleted and new resources received, the dashboards update counts in real-time for improved situational awareness and decision making.

Financial Tracking

Though financial concerns may not be the top priority when working to save lives and contain the spread of the virus, eventually bills will need to be paid. FEMA has very specific reporting requirements and if expenses are not properly tracked, time will be lost after the event trying to gather the appropriate information or worse claims may be denied.

BCG’s finance module provides the necessary tools to track costs for missions, tasks, and resources and assist with properly reporting them to FEMA for reimbursement. Current resource cost codes are available for all default resource types based upon FEMA cost codes and custom resource codes can be added by DLAN system administrator. Information about the item, delivery info, wage info, and invoicing are all recorded by the system.

Conclusion

As this crisis continues to evolve, responders need the right tools to share real-time information, visualize data, and track everything. Tools for bed, patient, PPE, and facility management will be key to evaluating the state of healthcare services. Maps and dashboards will help responders maintain complete situational awareness and make informed decisions. Mobile tools will help keep staff working regardless of location. Asset and financial tracking will help responders both during the response and during demobilization and after-actions.

BCG’s Incident Management products offer all of these functions and much more. BCG’s flagship solution, DLAN, has been helping emergency managers stay on top of disasters since 2002. This proven solution will help your team respond to COVID-19 and prepare for what comes next. BCG’s team has the experience necessary to consult you on best practices as you move into a virtual EOC environment to support COVID-19.

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About the Author

Buffalo Computer Graphics, Inc. (BCG) is a veteran owned small business that has over 35 years of experience in software, hardware, and systems engineering. BCG’s flagship Incident Management solution, DLAN, has been helping emergency managers stay on top of disasters since 2002. This proven solution will help your team respond to COVID-19 and prepare for what comes next. BCG’s team has the experience necessary to consult you on best practices as you move into a virtual EOC environment to support COVID-19.

This content is made possible by our sponsors; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of e.Republic’s editorial staff.

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