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Mortality rates spiked among non-Covid patients during pandemic

A new study led by the Kennesaw State University, overall patient care significantly suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, when Covid-19 surges swamped hospitals across the United States. According to study author Weiwei Chen, an assistant professor of Economics at Kennesaw, non-Covid patients had poorer outcomes in hospital overwhelmed with large numbers of Covid infections. For instance, the probability of an in-hospital death were 1.2 times higher among non-Covid patients than before the onset of the pandemic.

“Multiple factors contributed to the increase in mortality rates with Covid spikes, but resource constraints seem to be the main reason, which includes, for example, healthcare worker burnout, staff shortages, and reduced bed space,” Chen explained.

Although these findings are largely negative, some patterns observed during the study period may point to ways of alleviating overcrowding and improving patient outcomes in the future, such as discharging hospital patients to home care as an alternative treatment option.

“A major implication is that it is going to be very important to monitor patient outcomes at hospitals during pandemics in real time, even though it may be very difficult. That is the best way to ensure the best possible patient outcomes,” said Professor Chen.

These findings could have important implications for better preparation in the event of future pandemics or other large-scale illnesses. 

“The study is among the first to quantify the impact of Covid-19 surges on hospital discharge outcomes, particularly among non–Covid-19 patients. Increased mortality odds among non–Covid-19 patients imply that the quality of care was compromised as hospitals fought against Covid-19,” noted Professor Chen. 

“Although no sizable changes were found in the odds of discharges to other hospitals, the growth of discharges to home care shows the promise of home health care as an alternative care option during the pandemic. As the pandemic evolves, it is vital to have timely feedback on patient outcomes to help providers maintain and improve quality of care and learn for the future.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Managed Care

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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