HCA volumes rebound by nearly 20% in Q2, spurring $1.4B profit

Major hospital chain HCA Healthcare saw a nearly 20% increase in admissions in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2020, as the system posted a $1.4 billion profit.

HCA announced on Tuesday total revenues of $14 billion for the second quarter, a 14% increase compared to 2020, thanks to patient volumes that slightly exceeded 2019 levels.

“We believe overall our volume as indicated in second quarter will return to 2019 levels and moderately above that,” said Bill Rutherford, HCA’s chief financial officer, during an investor call Tuesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused healthcare use to plummet in the second quarter of 2020 as hospitals canceled or postponed elective procedures and patients were afraid to seek care for fear of contracting the virus.

Volumes for hospitals started to rebound in the first quarter as vaccinations rolled out and a winter surge subsided.

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Same facility admissions for HCA increased by 17.5% and same facility equivalent admissions by 26.8% in the second quarter compared to 2020. Inpatient surgery admissions also increased 15% while the same facility outpatient surgeries increased by 52.5%.

HCA also evaluated its admissions compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Overall admissions were up 2.7% in the second quarter compared to 2019. However, inpatient surgeries are down nearly 3% in 2021 compared to 2019 while outpatient surgeries are up 3.4%.

“We do believe demand growth for healthcare services over the near term is going to remain solid,” said Sam Hazen, HCA’s CEO, on the investor call.

The recovery in volume even extended to emergency rooms, an area of the hospital that has seen persistent declines since the onset of the pandemic.

Emergency room volumes increased 40% in the second quarter compared to 2020 thanks to a strong June. However, volumes remain down 5.5% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The spike in volumes also sparked a recovery in volumes for every payer class, including commercial plans and government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“The overall payer mix I think will remain strong,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford added that the system is prepared for renewed surges of the virus due to the more transmissible Delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that cases are up 70%, primarily due to Delta’s spread in states with low vaccination rates.

Of the system’s admissions this quarter, 3% of them were made up of COVID-19 patients. That is down compared to the first quarter of 2021 when COVID-19 patients made up 10% of admissions.

“We anticipate and anticipated serving COVID-19 [patients] throughout all of the year and indeed we are seeing that,” he said.