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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Study Reveals 30-Day Non-COVID-19 Mortality Rates on the Rise

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers still are discovering the massive ripple effects of the strain on the healthcare system. One such effect is an increase in 30-day mortality rates in non-COVID-19 patients.

Researchers studied data from more than 8.4 million Medicare hospital admissions between January 2019 and September 2021. Non-COVID-19-related admissions decreased between April 2020 and September 2021, but all-cause mortality rates increased by 20%, from 9.43% before the pandemic to 11.48% after. Black and Hispanic patients saw higher mortality rates than white patients. Mortality rates also were greater for patients in rural areas, smaller hospitals, lower-quality hospitals, and COVID-strained hospitals. Diagnoses of pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and cellulitis had the highest mortality rates.

While researchers did not explore reasons for this increase in mortality rates, they offered two possible explanations:

  • Patients sought hospital care when they were sicker or further in the course of their illness because they delayed care due to COVID-19 fears or barriers to care;
  • Hospitals with large numbers of COVID-19 patients lacked ICU beds, personnel, and other resources to treat non-COVID-19 patients, resulting in lower-quality care.

Hospitals must rigorously ensure all patients are receiving high-quality care. “Patients with non-SARS-CoV-2 illnesses may continue to delay or avoid care, resulting in continued excess morbidity and mortality,” the researchers noted. “Given the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic, healthcare clinicians and policymakers should develop strategies to provide optimal care to patients for non-SARS-CoV-2 illnesses, especially among racial and ethnic minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged patients.”

These new data on mortality rates shed light on an often-overlooked aspect of the pandemic’s toll. “Fully two years into the pandemic, each day brings a new understanding of the massive toll the pandemic has taken on all patients, both with and without COVID-19,” the authors of an editorial accompanying the study wrote. “Even as the world’s health systems suffer under the overwhelming weight of COVID-19, we must continue to understand and mitigate its direct and indirect impacts, particularly for our vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.”