Image of Nicole Ehrhart, V.M.D., Image credit: Colorado State University
Nicole Ehrhart, V.M.D., Image credit: Colorado State University

Long-term care operators can compute the risk for COVID-19 infections in their facility with a new online simulation tool. They simply plug a proposed testing schedule and other facility information into the simulator and receive information to make the most informed decisions. 

Administrators can use the LTCF Simulation dashboard as a decision support tool, said the developers, from Colorado State University. Users can input different numbers of staff, a variety of shifts for workers, data on vaccinated employees and residents, and various levels of interactions between staff and residents. 

Users are able to play with various testing scenarios and observe the virtual outcomes. 

“The intended use is that the user will set the parameters that are outside of their control then experiment with the inputs that are within their control,” the developers explain in their instructions.

The simulator also takes into consideration factors such as potential new variants of SARS-CoV-2, vaccination rates and community prevalence.

“Being able to build all of those things into the model simultaneously is extremely powerful,” said Nicole Ehrhart, V.M.D., a professor and director of Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging at CSU.

“All of these different conditions — how often you test, which test you use, vaccination acceptance among staff, variants, what are public health masking orders, are visitors allowed — have to be taken into account simultaneously if a mitigation or prevention strategy is going to work,” Ehrhart said.

Image of Bailey Fosdick, Ph.D., Image credit: Colorado State University
Bailey Fosdick, Ph.D., Image credit: Colorado State University

“It’s not a crystal ball that will tell you what’s going to happen at your facility,” added co-author Bailey Fosdick, Ph.D. “This is much more of a tool that will answer: If I adopt this testing regimen or the other, do I see a big or a little difference in outcomes given the other factors that are unique to this facility?”

The tool can help facility managers be more proactive rather than reactive, making choices on whichever COVID-19 testing decision is potentially more cost effective or impactful, for example, the developers said.

Ehrhart and her colleagues created the model for the tool using data from their early pandemic research aimed at helping long-term care facility operators test for asymptomatic workers. 

The LTCF Simulation dashboard can be accessed here. The model behind the tool’s development was published as a preprint on medRxiv.