COVID-19 Surges Were Associated With Declines in Hospital Quality

Unprecedented increases in hospital occupancy rates during COVID-19 surges in 2020 caused concern over hospital care quality for patients without COVID-19. Meille, et al. (2024) sought to examine changes in hospital nonsurgical care quality for patients without COVID-19 during periods of high and low COVID-19 admissions.

This cross-sectional study used data from the 2019 and 2020 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases. Data were obtained for all nonfederal, acute care hospitals in 36 states with admissions in 2019 and 2020, and patients without a diagnosis of COVID-19 or pneumonia who were at risk for selected quality indicators were included. The data analysis was performed between January 1, 2023, and March 15, 2024.

Each hospital and week in 2020 was categorized based on the number of COVID-19 admissions per 100 beds: less than 1.0, 1.0 to 4.9, 5.0 to 9.9, 10.0 to 14.9, and 15.0 or greater.

The analysis included 19 111 629 discharges (50.3% female; mean [SD] age, 63.0 [18.0] years) from 3283 hospitals in 36 states. In weeks 18 to 48 of 2020, 35 851 hospital-weeks (36.7%) had low COVID-19 admission rates, and 8094 (8.3%) had high rates. Quality indicators for patients without COVID-19 significantly worsened in 2020 during weeks with high vs low COVID-19 admissions. Pressure ulcer rates increased by 0.09 per 1000 admissions (95% CI, 0.01-0.17 per 1000 admissions; relative change, 24.3%), heart failure mortality increased by 0.40 per 100 admissions (95% CI, 0.18-0.63 per 100 admissions; relative change, 21.1%), hip fracture mortality increased by 0.40 per 100 admissions (95% CI, 0.04-0.77 per 100 admissions; relative change, 29.4%), and a weighted mean of mortality for the selected indicators increased by 0.30 per 100 admissions (95% CI, 0.14-0.45 per 100 admissions; relative change, 10.6%).

In this cross-sectional study, COVID-19 surges were associated with declines in hospital quality, highlighting the importance of identifying and implementing strategies to maintain care quality during periods of high hospital use.

Reference: Meille G, et al. COVID-19 Admission Rates and Changes in Care Quality in US Hospitals. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(5):e2413127. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.13127