EDMONTON, Alberta — One in nine COVID patients needing hospitalization for their illness end up dying or returning to the hospital within 30 days of their discharge. Researchers in Canada found that the 11 percent who are more likely to die or need rehospitalization tended to be older adults and men.
The study authors add that knowing the readmission rate after COVID-19 hospitalization and understanding the related resource implications can help with health care planning.
“Identifying risk factors for early readmission or death is important for both the in-hospital clinical team and the primary care physician who reassumes care after discharge, as well as for transition coordinators deciding which patients may benefit from additional resources at discharge to optimize outcomes,” says study co-author Dr. Finlay McAlister from the University of Alberta in a statement.
The researchers analyzed data on all adults hospitalized in Alberta and Ontario for SARS-CoV-2 between Jan. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021. Ontario and Alberta make up half the population of Canada.
Of the total 843,737 people who tested positive for coronavirus by PCR test, 5.5 percent of all adults needed hospitalization. The average person stayed for eight days.
Around one in seven (14 percent) were in the intensive care unit at some point during their hospital stay and 18 percent died. Another 11 percent survived and left the hospital — but needed readmission or died within 30 days of their discharge. Almost half of those readmissions were for pulmonary problems.
Unvaccinated people account for most hospitalizations
Although the rates of in-hospital deaths were higher and the lengths of stay were longer for patients with COVID-19 than for patients with other respiratory infections, the rates of readmission were not higher than for other medical conditions.
“Despite fears of high rates of readmission after COVID-19 hospitalizations, we found that outcomes in the 30 days after discharge were consistent with admissions for other medical diagnoses,” the researchers write in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). “Thus, current system approaches to transitioning patients from hospital to home do not appear to need adjustment.”
Study authors note that patients who died were older, had multiple comorbidities, were more likely to be male, were discharged with home care or to a long-term care facility, and had more previous hospitalizations and emergency room visits.
Of the patients admitted with COVID, 91 percent in Alberta and 95 percent in Ontario were unvaccinated. Dr. McAlister says their data did not highlight cases of “long COVID,” which may not require hospitalization, but can affect healthcare needs.
“Future research should determine other system effects for COVID-19 survivors, particularly with respect to postacute COVID-19 symptomatology,” the researchers conclude.
South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.