Hospital patient volume continues to fall

Declining admissions that hurt hospital revenue still plague Community Health Systems and other hospital operators, Bloomberg reported. Predicting full-year admissions will drop 1 percent to 3 percent, Community Health yesterday reduced its 2013 earnings forecast.

The Nashville, Tenn-based hospital system, the second largest in the country, also saw total admissions drop 5.1 percent and adjusted admissions fall 1.8 percent for the three months that ended June 30, 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, according to the hospital operator's earnings preview released last week. Similarly, same-hospital admissions declined 5.7 percent while adjusted admissions decreased 2.6 percent compared with last year's second quarter.

Community Health, which operates, owns or leases 135 hospitals in 29 states, partly attributed weak patient volume in May and June for its lower-than-anticipated second-quarter net operating revenues of $3.236 billion.

Hospital inpatient admission rates have been falling sharply this year at hospitals throughout country, down 7 percent in Chicago and 10 percent in New Jersey, raising some alarm with a prominent analyst at Moody's Investors Service

The lingering effects of the recession, as well as individuals putting off certain procedures due to high out-of-pocket costs and a migration to more outpatient settings are driving down inpatient volume, Moody's Associate Managing Director Lisa Goldstein said last month at the Healthcare Financial Management Association annual conference in Orlando, Fla., FierceHealthFinance previously reported

"We've seen such a long trend of weaker volume despite the improving economy and it will be a lasting change for the industry," Megan Neuburger, a senior director at Fitch Ratings in New York, told Bloomberg in an interview. "A lot of this is a shift from inpatient to outpatient. At some point, there will be a baseline. When do we get to that bottom? No one knows," she said.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- here's CHA's earnings preview