Hospital margins were down, volumes were up in month before COVID-19 hit, Kaufman Hall reports

In what was the last month of business as usual before COVID-19 caused disruptions around the U.S., hospitals across the nation saw margin declines in February, a new report from Kaufman Hall found.

According to the consulting firm's "National Hospital Flash Report" reflecting February results, U.S. hospitals saw their margins drop about 11.7% in February compared to the same month a year earlier largely due to lower volumes compared to January 2020 and higher expenses.

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In February, hospitals saw volumes and revenues up across all measures compared to the same month in 2019. For instance, discharges were up 1.1%, adjusted discharges were up 2.7%, adjusted patient days were up 6.3% and average length of stay increased 1.9% compared to February 2019.

Emergency department visits were up 3%, and operating room minutes rose by nearly 1%. Net patient service revenue per adjusted discharge rose 3% year over year.

Expenses were up in February, with total expense per adjusted discharge rising 2.2% year over year and labor expense per adjusted discharge jumping 3.4% year over year.

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The February performance followed a 2019 marked by U.S. hospitals seeing moderate year-over-year gains despite significant month-over-month decreases in their margins.

"For many organizations, it was the last month of business as usual before coming face-to-face with the impacts of unprecedented demands as COVID-19 cases mount nationwide," the authors of the report wrote. "The COVID-19 pandemic will dramatically change the picture across all metrics in the coming months."