COVID-19: Bed and Staff Shortages Can Bring Patient Movement to a Standstill


As of September 16, roughly 54% of the US population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.1 While that’s encouraging – and the number of vaccinated Americans continues to climb with a 7-day average of 413,000 administered vaccines2 – a myriad of cultural, regional, and economic factors still poses a challenge for COVID patients in need of hospitalization.

So far in September, the country is seeing an average of 145,000 new cases every day.3 Out of those cases, the daily number of COVID patients requiring admission into a hospital averages 93,000.4 And, unfortunately, hospitals everywhere are feeling the strain.

In the first week of September, NPR reported that 59% of all hospitals were under high or extreme stress.5 But what does this mean, exactly? Based on a framework developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME),6 a hospital is operating under high stress when COVID patients occupy 30% or more of its ICU beds. When the number of COVID patients using ICU beds reaches 60%, then the hospital is operating under “extreme stress.”

In Kansas during the month of August, Motient’s patient-movement platform, Mission Control, saw two weeks in a row where hospitals were almost fully at capacity — and the other three weeks were still running much higher than normal.

A ‘3’ is considered ‘At Capacity.’ 

The federal government released new data that shows a marked decline in the number of hospitals considered either “high” or “extreme stress” when measured against the IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) framework – dropping down to 45% of all hospitals.7

Still, this is nearly half of the hospitals in the United States. And when looking at the government’s most recent data through the lens of states with the smallest to largest populations, a clear takeaway comes into focus: More sparsely populated states with the biggest rural areas are being hit the hardest.

There are 23 states with hospitals that fall into the “high” or “extreme stress” category (Idaho is the only state to reach “extreme stress,” with Covid patients occupying 60% of its ICU beds). Out of those 23 states, 14 of them have populations under 5 million: Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho, West Virginia, New Mexico, Mississippi, Arkansas, Utah, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kentucky, and Alabama.8

This means that 60% of all hospitals considered to be “stressed” with COVID ICU hospitalizations are in many of our least populated states.7

The Challenge of Patient Transportation in the Time of COVID-19

Hundreds of rural hospitals now teeter on the brink of being overwhelmed by the current numbers of COVID patients in their ICUs. The rural healthcare system is already plagued with staff and resource shortages, which only add another layer of complexity when trying to get a COVID patient – or any patient for that matter – to the hospital most capable of giving the appropriate level of treatment and care.

In rural communities, nurses and other healthcare providers in rural communities need fast insight into which surrounding hospitals have the capacity, treatment capability, and resources necessary to provide immediate and urgent care to a COVID patient. Currently, for many nurses and hospital staffers, the effort of communicating, coordinating, and handling various administrative aspects of patient movement simply takes too much time, too much back and forth across stakeholders, and too much focus that’s better spent elsewhere.

Cut the Time It Takes to Provide COVID Patients the Care They Need

We can help nurses and others in rural communities quickly find a hospital capable of taking and treating their COVID patients – and we can also help them expedite the arrangement of appropriate medical transport. Mission Control, powered by Motient, equips providers with the tools and data necessary for selecting the medical transportation best suited for their COVID patients, including equipment and mode of travel. With Mission Control, networked healthcare providers use an acuity assessment tool to select medical transport. They can also use a single dashboard to seamlessly oversee all transport logistics, communicate with all stakeholders, and analyze transport and facility resource utilization.

As hospitals in rural areas continue to struggle with COVID hospitalizations, the ability to quickly find and arrange transport to a healthcare facility able to take patients is perhaps more pressing now than ever. In August in Kansas, our Communications Team called on average, over sixty facilities per mission (per patient) for two weeks in a row on behalf of care teams. That’s valuable time that care teams were able to spend doing what they do best — providing life-saving care to the patients who need them most, where and when they need them most.

Learn more about how Mission Control, powered by Motient, can add value to your facility — and keep care teams doing what they do best: Providing lifesaving, excellent care.


  1. COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.
  2. Trends in Number of COVID-19 Vaccinations in the US.
  3. Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory.
  4. Prevalent Hospitalizations of Patients with Confirmed COVID-19, US.
  5. Where Are Hospitals Overwhelmed By COVID-19 Patients? Look Up Your State.
  6. COVID-19 Results Briefing: the United States of America.
  7. COVID-19 Reported Patient Impact and Hospital Capacity by State.
  8. US Census Bureau.
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I have really enjoyed working with the knowledgeable and innovative staff within Mission Control! They have observed and created a dashboard that significantly meets our data abstraction needs. This information is in real time and we can access the data points we need very quickly. Mission Control has saved me hours of manual abstraction and I can now present this information to our physicians and leadership through creative charts and graphs. At Newman Regional Health, we are very excited to integrate Mission Control into our daily workflow and look forward to the valuable information the dashboard can provide!

Aubrey Arnold MS, BSN/RN

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We started using Mission Control a few months ago because we were struggling with finding patient placement and transportation. Mission Control helped with that significantly. MC is very user friendly! All staff has been so kind and helpful! They are always prompt with assisting us and do a great job in keeping us up to date and informed on any progress they’re making whether that be with a phone call or a message through mission control. They continue to work until transport has been found! We would be lost without them!

DJ Craighead, RN

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The Creation of Motient: Two Doctors See Possibilities in Challenges

After experiencing the hurdles of patient movement first-hand, two doctors decided to transform them.

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