Command Centers Help Manage Constrained Resources


15 Feb 2022

Health systems from coast to coast are centralizing the management of care delivery to optimize valuable and stretched resources. Here’s how mission-control style command centers are helping health systems across the country:

Real-time data provides holistic view of care conditions 

In June 2019, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health launched their command center with the goal of using improve practices across the Washington state healthcare system, including patient transfers, bed turnaround time, staffing and utilization of equipment. 

The timing was perfect, positioning the health system to mount a better response to COVID-19.

“I don’t know how we would have managed during the pandemic without the command center,” Matt Metsker, division director for Mission Control and virtual health services at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health shares. “Of course, the organization would have found a way, but we wouldn’t have been able to make the same real-time decisions based on data, and we wouldn’t have had these levers to pull when we needed to quickly make changes. That’s partly why there’s been a proliferation of command centers, even during the pandemic.”

Increasing efficiencies with command centers

The Johns Hopkins Hospital adopted the first-of-its-kind command center in 2016 to increase efficiencies and improve capacity management to yield both clinical and financial gains.

“We initially projected a five-year return on investment, but we achieved a full ROI within three years,” explains Anna Ye, former assistant administrator for the office of capacity management at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Pre-COVID, we had essentially opened up 16 virtual beds for our hospital by using our command center and the efficiencies that come out of that.”

As command centers quickly prove their value, health systems around the world are eager to adopt the technology. The Johns Hopkins Hospital has hosted site visits and fielded questions from ¬hundreds of other organizations who want to learn more about the technology.

Delivering tangible outcomes

A command center launch in 2017 has helped Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) gain operational agility and efficiency.

“Before, we were figuring out how many patients we had and how many we anticipated moving forward by writing on pieces of paper and whiteboards,” says Dr. Matthias Merkel, OHSU’s senior associate chief medical officer for capacity management and patient flow. “We ended up in a situation where we had these meetings daily, and we realized, as a health system, that we needed to do this better.”

With the help of the command center, they have been able to make remarkable improvements. During the first year of operations, the hospital was able to place more than 500 patients at partner facilities – and more than double that to 1,200 within two years. By better balancing capacities across the system, OHSU can increase access to its academic health center for patients across the state, including many coming from rural hospitals.