When COVID-19 cases surged in the City of Toronto during the second wave, a tool helped communicate potential scenarios of viral transmission to the public. Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, outlined the tool’s projections in an October 2020 public update.

The Tool, developed by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), helps support health system planners, including Toronto, with their response to the pandemic. The COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool covers the major aspects of COVID-19 health capacity planning in one model. It projects case counts and the epidemic’s trajectory, hospital bed demand, and demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and staffing.

Helping health system planners with COVID-19

Health system planners can use the Tool to explore changes in the pandemic and understand potential case projections and hospital resource use, using their local data.

The Excel-based Tool is easy to use and available in English and French. It is a standalone resource that contains everything from user inputs and information outputs, to equations and formulas, to references and explanations. Planners can customize over 40 inputs with an option to modify more advanced parameters. The Tool does not require any advanced knowledge or training to use and planners with different levels of knowledge can explore components of interest.

Our Tool is an important component of a planner’s toolbox to make decisions related to COVID-19 – especially when used along with other models and information (e.g., financial, ethical).

By entering their local data, health system planners can use the Tool to:

  • Explore how public policy interventions affect the epidemic trajectory and demands on the health care system;
  • Examine the impact of changes such as vaccination rollouts on the number of infected individuals and health system utilization; and
  • Create and compare different “what-if” scenarios of viral transmission and examine the projected case counts and downstream health care resource and staffing demand

How does it work?

The Tool uses an underlying mathematical model and relies on input values from literature or publically available data, including clinical administrative health data from CIHI. It was developed with input from experts and stakeholders including ministries of health, modelling experts in the academic community, hospitals, regional health authorities, and federal and local public health agencies.

Planners can input local information including COVID-19 case counts, population size, public health measures, and information about vaccines, health care supply and other clinical data. Once the information is entered, the Tool will output information including:

  • The number of new daily COVID-19 cases;
  • The number of individuals requiring treatment in critical care and non–critical care beds (with or without a ventilator); and
  • Demand for health care resources and PPE required to treat these individuals.

The Tool contains many tables and graphs that are used to communicate information and projections. 

We periodically update the Tool based on user feedback and changes in the pandemic, and continue to support client requests.

Examples of the Tool in action

We have shared the Tool with over 75 organizations across all provinces and territories and have worked closely with provincial agencies, local public health units, and hospitals to help them adapt the Tool to specific contexts.

The Tool has been used for updates to executive teams and government officials, validation of projections produced by other models, and for public releases. Toronto Public Health and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador have used it to communicate the importance of public health measures to the public.

Learn more

Learn more about CIHI’s COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool.

Get the Tool

Email help@cihi.ca to get access to the Tool and help with your pandemic response.

This article was submitted by the Analytic Techniques and Tools Branch, Canadian Institute for Health Information



Sample graphical output from the COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool

Planners can build and compare up to six different scenarios of viral transmission and examine the downstream effect on health system capacity, including hospitalizations. This figure illustrates projected COVID-19 hospitalizations based on the inputted local data and different scenarios of viral transmission. 


Sample graphical output from the COVID-19 Health System Capacity Planning Tool

Planners can input their local hospital supply information and explore the potential gap between availability and demand based on the epidemic’s trajectory.