Covid-19 Story Tip: Johns Hopkins Capacity Command Center Boosts Hospital’s Ability to Care for Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic


Since its opening in January 2016, the Johns Hopkins Capacity Command Center has helped Johns Hopkins Medicine manage hospital operations — notably the flow of patients. So when the COVID-19 pandemic and the first people with the illness came to the hospital, the capacity command center was ready to manage the influx of patients.

“We didn’t need a separate plan for patients with COVID-19 because this is what we do every day,” recalls Jim Scheulen, chief administrative officer, emergency medicine and capacity management at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “These were patients with emergency needs just like others, but they had COVID-19. They’re patients and they’re being transported, and we know how to do that.”

The Judy Reitz Capacity Command Center, as it is formally known, at The Johns Hopkins Hospital was designed and built in collaboration with GE Healthcare Partners. With its 12 digital, data-filled screens in the front of the room, the control center combines the latest in systems engineering, predictive analytics and innovative problem-solving to better manage patient safety, experience, volume and the movement of patients in and out of the hospital and around the health system, which enables greater access to Johns Hopkins’ world-class services. Between 25 and 30 staff members inside the command center control bed assignments for all patients admitted and discharged within The Johns Hopkins Hospital, as well as those transferred to and from four Johns Hopkins Medicine hospitals — Howard County General, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Sibley Memorial and Suburban – along with those transferred from outside hospitals.

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Hopkins Access Line team member Sherrell Johnson in the capacity command center at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Credit: Johns Hopkins University/Will Kirk

Since the first patient with COVID-19 was admitted within the Johns Hopkins Health System in March 2020, the capacity command center has managed the flow of patients into and out of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and other health system hospitals, allowing for patients to receive optimal and often lifesaving care during their hospital stay. Through March 1, 2021, 659 patients with COVID-19 were transferred to and from hospitals in the Johns Hopkins Health System, and 877 patients with COVID-19 were transferred internally by the Lifeline team at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Importantly, of the team dispatched from the capacity command center to transport patients, not a single transmission of COVID-19 from patient to staff is known to have occurred during a transport. In the same time period, the Command Center managed a total of 7,529 patient transfers including and excluding patients with COVID-19.

The capacity command center’s impact before and during the COVID-19 pandemic resembles that of the airline industry. “The airline industry is trying to get the right plane, to the right gate, at the right time; we are trying to get the right patient, to the right bed, at the right time,” says Anna Ye, assistant administrator for the Office of Capacity Management in the command center. “Air traffic control is about getting planes and passengers safely from one airport to another, and we are focused on moving patients safely though our hospitals.”

Scheulen and Ye are available for interviews on how the Johns Hopkins Capacity Command Center has boosted health system operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For additional details, view a video highlighting the capacity command center’s fifth anniversary and impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.