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During the current COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have been raised about a nationwide shortage of mechanical ventilators, a necessary element in saving lives. With the peak number of COVID-19 cases varying by state, there have already been voluntary exchange efforts to make ventilators available when and where they are needed most.

New research from University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Dan Adelman proposes a state exchange plan for ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic that could save thousands of US lives. The study, released today as a fast-track Ahead of Print article by Health Affairs, assesses the benefits of a potential nationwide logistical operation, to be organized and administered by the US military.

According to Adelman, if the government organized a mechanical ventilator exchange that made the best use of all available ventilators in the country – including the national stockpile – the number of lives saved could range from 7,070 to 28,197, which could require performing more than 18,000 individual ventilator moves between states. To anticipate ventilator demand, he adopted the state-level forecasts of daily intensive care unit admissions used by the White House in its planning; to calculate the existing supply, he modified 2010 national survey data on available ventilators in each state.

“It seems unlikely that the US manufacturing industry will be able to gear up enough capacity to produce defect-free, usable ventilators in time to meet the enormous demand that is potentially coming in the weeks ahead,” concludes Adelman, the Charles I. Clough, Jr. Professor of Operations Management at Chicago Booth. “In the absence of other viable solutions, the government should begin this effort in earnest, and if not, preparations should be made for such coordination should the country face another pandemic in the future.”

A summary of findings also appears in the Chicago Booth Review.

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Marielle Sainvilus
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Phone: 773.531.2894

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