Managing Surges in Demand: A Grounded Conceptual Framework of Surge Management Capability

Jeffrey D. Larson, Alden Yuanhong Lai, Matthew J. DePuccio, Brian Hilligoss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Surge management is important to hospital operations, yet surge literature has mostly focused on the addition of resources (e.g., 25% more beds) during events like pandemics. Such views are limiting, as meeting surge demands requires hospitals to engage in practices tailored to a surge’s unique contingencies. We argue that a dynamic view of surge management should include surge management capability, which refers to how resources are deployed to respond to surge contingencies. To understand this capability, we qualitatively studied five hospital systems experiencing multiple surges due to COVID-19 between April 2020 and March 2022. We develop a framework showing that managing surges involves preserving capacity, expanding capacity, smoothing capacity demand, and enabling surge management. We contribute to surge literature by identifying practices hospitals can adopt to address surges and offering a better understanding of surge conditions (e.g., degree of novelty) that make some surge management practices more appropriate than others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-258
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Care Research and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • COVID-19
  • capabilities
  • disaster preparedness
  • hospitals
  • qualitative
  • surge capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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