COVID-19 Symptom Web Search Surges Precede Local Hospitalization Surges

8 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2020

See all articles by Erol A. Pekoz

Erol A. Pekoz

Boston University - Department of Operations and Technology Management

Aaron Smith

University of Ottowa

Anita Tucker

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Zeyu Zheng

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: April 20, 2020

Abstract

Many hospitals in the US were forced to preemptively cancel elective surgeries in March, 2020 to prepare for a surge in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients. The resulting lost revenue, patient suffering and the probability that similar pandemics could recur motivates hospitals to find early-warning indicators for future surges. We find that state-level Google searches for COVID-19 symptom keywords "sore throat,'' "fever'' and "cough'' surge about 1-2 weeks before COVID-19-related hospitalizations surge; we adjust for increased symptom awareness during the pandemic by using searches for the technical keywords "dry cough'' and "shortness of breath'' as a measure of symptom awareness rather than a need for symptom relief. We use data from Google Trends and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and give a simple early-warning notification policy based on principles of Statistical Process Control. This may give hospitals an additional tool to help decide scheduling policies during future COVID-19 waves. The approach we use may also be useful for other diseases.

Keywords: COVID-19, Google Trends, Symptom

Suggested Citation

Pekoz, Erol A. and Smith, Aaron and Tucker, Anita and Zheng, Zeyu, COVID-19 Symptom Web Search Surges Precede Local Hospitalization Surges (April 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3585532 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3585532

Erol A. Pekoz (Contact Author)

Boston University - Department of Operations and Technology Management ( email )

United States
617-353-2676 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://people.bu.edu/pekoz

Aaron Smith

University of Ottowa ( email )

Canada

Anita Tucker

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States

Zeyu Zheng

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

4125 Etcheverry Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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