Improving Maps for Better Capacity Planning in the Fight Against Covid-19

Better capacity planning needs better maps. By adding hospital bed count to OpenStreetMap, we can all make a difference.

These are strange times for many of us. While big parts of the world have shut down due to Covid-19, others are under a lot of stress. The health infrastructure is particularly vulnerable as increasing numbers of people in several countries are in acute need of healthcare. Much is being done to tackle this: hospitals are building provisionary healthcare centres, local governments are setting up temporary testing sites, and medical students and others are volunteering to help.

As always, there are practical and impactful ways for mappers to help. Capacity awareness is a key component in planning, projecting developments, decision making, as well as channeling patients and medical supplies to the most appropriate healthcare center. One important measure for regional hospital capacity is hospital bed counts. Mappers can easily add this kind of data to OpenStreetMap to give researchers and planners a geographical overview of regional and state-wide capacity. Having easy access to this kind of data helps planners to:

  • Distribute supplies such as ventilators
  • Provide insight into the need to expand existing hospitals
  • Underscore where temporary sites should be built
  • Shift staff plans and availability

Simply put, adding capacity data to OpenStreetMap is a practical, high-impact, and easy way for those of us who are currently at home to help our healthcare infrastructure respond to the Covid-19 care needs.

Together with others in the global mapping community, we’ve put together a list of MapRoulette tasks for adding hospital beds data to different hospitals in the US. We’ve chosen to focus on the US for this task because the US is the country that has the highest number of active Covid-19 cases at the time of writing.

Mapping hospital beds count Mapping hospital bed counts in MapRoulette

Here are the current hospital bed count tasks that you can assist with in MapRoulette:

Each task comes with clear instructions in MapRoulette, allowing you to easily identify the number of beds available at every healthcare centre so that you can add it to the map. Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way as well as additional features you can consider mapping:

  • The About Us pages on hospital websites often include information about available beds. Some Wikipedia articles also list hospitals in each state and bed numbers, but make sure that the Wikipedia editor got the information from a credible source before copying it into OpenStreetMap.
  • The name of the hospital may have changed from what’s shown in OpenStreetMap. Hospitals sometimes go through acquisitions or mergers, so make sure the name is still correct. This is a chance to add the name of the organisation operating the hospital as well.
  • If the hospital is part of a healthcare network, the network usually has a website with helpful information such as the number of beds, whether an emergency department is available, and some of the key services available.
  • Parking aisles and parking lots seemed are sometimes missing from hospitals on the map. These are easy to add and is useful information for anyone going to the hospital.
  • If you notice a helipad, you can add these easily by creating an area and tagging it as aeroway=helipad.

We know that there is an army out mappers out there who are already adding important hospital data to the map, and we hope that this can be an addition to the great work you’re already doing.

/Ed, Strategic Partnerships Manager

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