One in 9 hospitalized COVID-19 patients die or get readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of being sent home, a new study has found.
Deaths were observed more often in men, older individuals, those with comorbidities and people who had a history of prior hospital stays, according to the peer-reviewed research published May 16 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Study authors called the rates of COVID-19 hospital readmissions and deaths “common.”.
“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,” researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada wrote.
Nearly half of COVID-19 patients discharged returned to the hospital because of lung issues, a news release said.
Study methods and findings
“In the pre-COVID-19 era, hospital readmissions were recognized to be common and costly,” the research noted.
The study analyzed 843,737 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Alberta between January 2020 and September 2021. Of these people, 46,412 adult patients were hospitalized due to their infections with an average hospital stay of 8 days.
A total 34,846 patients were discharged within a month and 11% of them died or were readmitted, the study found.
The percentage of readmissions and deaths could seem high but are similar “for patients who are discharged…with pneumonia or influenza, who have a lot of other illnesses like diabetes,” study co-author Dr. Finlay McAlister of the University of Alberta told Global News.
In the U.S. in 2018, 3.8 million adult hospital patients were readmitted within 30 days of getting discharged for a range of health issues such as septicemia, heart failure, diabetes and more, according to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The study on COVID-19 found the majority of patients were unvaccinated when initially admitted to the hospital, including 95% of patients from Ontario and 91% of patients in Alberta.
This “underscores the effectiveness of vaccines,” the news release said.
“One of the takeaway messages from the study…was that vaccines work…vaccines reduced hospitalizations by 78 per cent and reduced mortality by 60 per cent, so a huge benefit from vaccines,” McAlister told Global News.
Researchers wrote a study limitation included how the data did not “capture the full burden” of long COVID-19, which refers to lingering symptoms of the virus that last longer than a month after testing positive, according to the American Medical Association.
Since the rates of hospital readmissions and deaths were not unusual compared to the rates for other health conditions, “current system approaches to transitioning patients from hospital to home do not appear to need adjustment,” researchers concluded.
“Future research should determine other system effects for COVID-19 survivors, particularly with respect to postacute COVID-19 symptomatology.”
Johns Hopkins University recorded 999,624 U.S. deaths as of 1:00 p.m. ET on May 16.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.