As the pandemic recedes, the average length of stay continues to increase nationwide despite a drop in COVID-related illnesses.
The American Hospital Association reported that the average patient length of stay increased by 19.2% in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels. A combination of factors was responsible for this change. This included sicker patients presenting to the hospitals because of delayed care, the resulting bottlenecks in the emergency room, the backlog of elective procedures hitting the system, and hospital admission spikes from new COVID variants, RSV infections and seasonal flu outbreaks. Barriers to patient flow were added by the increasing complexity of patient discharge planning and changing patterns of post-acute care. On top of this, staffing issues placed burdens on hospitals exacerbating difficulties. It is clear hospitals will continue to face challenges in 2023. Understanding the residual effects caused by the pandemic, their root causes, and their impact on the continuum of care, is critical to building strategies to effectively manage hospital capacity and resources.
In Part 2 of our compendium of research, we look at strategies to bend hospital utilization curves by right sizing length of stay as well as keys to addressing post-discharge care.