Forecasting hospital-level COVID-19 admissions using real-time mobility data
For each of the COVID-19 pandemic waves, hospitals have had to plan for deploying surge capacity and resources to manage large but transient increases in COVID-19 admissions. While a lot of effort has gone into predicting regional trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there are far fewer successful tools for creating accurate hospital-level forecasts. At the same time, anonymized phone-collected mobility data proved to correlate well with the number of cases for the first two waves of the pandemic (spring 2020, and fall-winter 2021). In this work, we show how mobility data could bolster hospital-specific COVID-19 admission forecasts for five hospitals in Massachusetts during the initial COVID-19 surge. The high predictive capability of the model was achieved by combining anonymized, aggregated mobile device data about users’ contact patterns, commuting volume, and mobility range with COVID hospitalizations and test-positivity data. We conclude that mobility-informed forecasting models can increase the lead-time of accurate predictions for individual hospitals, giving managers valuable time to strategize how best to allocate resources to manage forthcoming surges.