ICU-BIS Background and Timelines

In December 2019, a novel strain of coronavirus disease named COVID-19 was identified in the city of Wuhan in China and may have spread from a market for live animals. Whilst this raised concerns internationally, the wider impact was poorly understood until the outbreak hit Italy in February 2020 with rapid devastating effects. It quickly became apparent that many of those diagnosed with COVID-19 required mechanical ventilation in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and that COVID-19 was likely to reach Ireland shortly. The timeline of COVID-19 in Ireland focusing on key dates for ICU has been described below.

It was essential to make optimal use of ICU bed capacity in Irish hospitals and this required real-time monitoring of ICU bed capacity and occupancy. NOCA was already progressing a project to provide this information. With support from the HSE and by prioritising this project within NOCA and DMF Systems (NOCA’s Information Technology (IT) provider for ICU Audit), the ICU Bed Information System (BIS) was developed speedily and went live on 26th March 2020.

ICU-BIS provides data on the numbers of ICU beds open, ICU beds occupied and ICU beds available. It also provides data on the impact of COVID-19 on ICU, i.e. numbers of new admissions of COVID-19 cases to ICU, numbers of COVID-19 patients in ICU, and numbers of discharges and of deaths in ICU of COVID-19 patients. Data are also collected on the numbers of patients’ invasively ventilated and undergoing renal replacement therapy (RRT).

ICU-BIS is a valuable resource for clinicians trying to find an ICU bed when their own Unit is full. Data from ICU-BIS are an essential component in how the Health Service Executive (HSE) manages the pandemic on a day-to-day basis. It also provides vital information to those modelling the future progress of the epidemic and guides Government decisions regarding public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

A key role for the NOCA ICU Bed Information System (BIS) was to provide daily data on the capacity of the healthcare system to care for critically ill patients. This included data on ICU bed occupancy and bed availability and on the situation in individual hospitals, especially those approaching their peak ICU capacity.