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The hard facts about COVID-19 readmissions


Readmissions data could help healthcare providers and other industry stakeholders anticipate patient complications, care needs, and financial repercussions as hospitals contend with COVID-19 readmissions. Because the fact is, COVID-19 readmissions might be more common than we think.

With more than 28 million total cases of COVID-19 in the United States, readmissions could take a serious toll on patient health and hospital resources. Patients, providers, and payors could also face financial difficulties as a result of readmission and ongoing care.

By understanding COVID-19 readmissions, industry stakeholders can prepare for the coming challenges and offer critical support. With readmissions data, providers can recognize common co-morbidities and make more informed treatment plans. Importantly, suppliers can use this information to address supply chain challenges and allocate resources to areas with high COVID-19 readmission rates.

We’re learning more and more every day about COVID readmissions. So here are the some of the hard facts.

Over 50,000 COVID-19 patients readmitted within 60 days

We analyzed 304,825 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 (ICD-10 code U071) between January and October 2020. Of these, 50,296 patients—or 16.5 percent—were readmitted to the hospital within 60 days of discharge.

It’s worth noting that these readmissions are not segmented by cause. Some readmissions may be indirectly related to COVID-19, but this information can be challenging to track. For instance, if a patient is readmitted due to an asthma attack, asthma will be recorded as the reason for readmission. However, battling COVID-19 could have aggravated their original condition.

Due to a lag in data reporting, the 304,825 patients we analyzed represent only a fraction of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Because of this, 16.5 percent does not accurately reflect readmissions for all U.S. COVID patients.

Given the scale of total COVID infections and the spread of several new COVID-19 variants, it’s possible that nationwide COVID-19 readmission rates are much higher.

Almost 10 percent of readmitted COVID-19 patients report respiratory failure

Of the 50,296 readmitted patients we analyzed, 4,741 of them—or 9.4 percent—reported acute respiratory failure with hypoxia (ICD-10 code J9601). Acute respiratory failure with hypoxia is a severe condition that affects oxygen supply in the blood and tissues. In some cases, it could be life-threatening or cause long-term lung damage.

Pneumonia (ICD-10 code J189), acute kidney failure (ICD-10 code N179), and sepsis (ICD-10 code A419) were also among the top diagnoses in readmitted COVID-19 patients. All three conditions can have long-lasting or life-threatening effects, depending on the patient’s health and comorbidities.

These diagnoses affect a relatively small patient subset. But comparatively, readmitted COVID patients reported more complex conditions or symptoms than those hospitalized only once for COVID-19.

Among the 304,825 COVID patients we analyzed, 17.5 percent experienced shortness of breath (ICD-10 code R0602). According to Definitive Healthcare data, 15.9 percent of COVID-19 patients also reported unspecified chest pain (ICD-10 code R079).

Shortness of breath and chest pain are two of the most common symptoms in serious COVID-19 cases. However, these symptoms are less severe than acute respiratory failure or sepsis.

With over 500,000 COVID-related mortalities in the U.S. alone, we’re certainly not downplaying the severity of any COVID-19 infection.

But if readmitted COVID-19 patients are facing serious health risks, it’s important for healthcare providers and other industry stakeholders to know what to expect and how they can help mitigate further complications.

Learn more

Ready to get started with COVID-19 readmissions data? Start a free trial to see how you can use Definitive Healthcare solutions to:

  • Track COVID-19 readmissions
  • Find common comorbidities or complications among readmitted patients
  • Assess the ongoing financial health of U.S. hospitals, and
  • Identify facilities or regions most impacted by the virus
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Definitive Healthcare

This blog was written by a former contributor at Definitive Healthcare.At Definitive Healthcare, our passion is to transform data, analytics and expertise into healthcare…

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