Kansas extends deal for patient transfer system used by 115 hospitals during COVID-19 surges

By: - December 8, 2021 10:28 am

This sample data with fictitious names provides a view of what hospital staff might see when they look inside Mission Control. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has extended a contract with Motient for access to a patient transfer system used by 115 hospitals statewide.

Known as Mission Control, the program helps overwhelmed hospitals find available bed space for acute care patients. The software also provides a real-time view of surging cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization.

Motient announced that KDHE would continue to pay for the service. Matt Lara, a spokesman for KDHE, said the $1.05 million contract runs from Nov. 18, 2021, to Dec. 1, 2022.

Under the agreement, hospitals and correctional facilities in Kansas can use the software for free, the company said.

“Motient’s assistance has been invaluable during the pandemic, and its 24/7 communications team has helped our communities weather the hospital capacity crisis,” said Ashley Goss, deputy KDHE secretary, in a statement released by Motient. “We’re excited to continue to provide free patient movement services not only for our state’s hospitals but also for our correctional facilities, which face unique challenges. Aggregated statewide metrics will continue to play an important role in supporting the health of Kansans through the pandemic and beyond.”

KDHE previously awarded a one-year, $1.3 million grant to the company in November 2020. Hospitals in Kansas used Mission Control to transfer more than 5,000 patients in 12 months.

Mission Control provides information on available bed space, patient conditions, and available transportation among medical care providers, including those beyond state lines. The program is designed to take less than a minute for someone to enter all of the information needed to move a patient from one hospital to another.

Rural hospitals with little acute care resources and hospitals with nursing shortages relied on the software during surges of COVID-19 cases last winter and when the delta variant stressed networks in August and September.

“We started using the platform to find beds, and now we use it for more than 90% of our transfer patients,” said Alana Longwell, chief medical officer at the 25-bed Newman Regional Hospital in Emporia, in a statement provided by Motient. “The platform lets us slice and dice our data around time-critical diagnoses to help us increase efficiency and improve our transport processes.”

As of Wednesday, KDHE has reported 6,768 deaths since the start of the pandemic, including 25 added to the total between Monday and Wednesday. The agency has added 82 deaths since Dec. 1.

The agency also recorded 4,443 new cases and 116 hospitalizations since Monday.

The seven-day average for new cases is now up to 1,780 cases per day, a level not reached since Jan. 17. During the delta surge, new cases peaked at an average of 1,654 in early September.

Nearly all of the deaths and hospitalizations involve unvaccinated residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 55.3% of Kansas residents, including 67.3% of adults, are fully vaccinated.

KDHE also provided an update Wednesday of outbreaks of five or more cases within the past 14 days. They include eight long-term care facilities, seven schools, and the Harvey County jail. The largest new outbreak is at Pittsburg Health and Rehabilitation Center, the source of 27 recent infections.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

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