Hospital Finances, Patient Volumes Took A Step Back in August

After three months of recovery, financial and volume indicators were off in August, according to Kaufman Hall's monthly report.

Hospital finances and volume took a step back in August after recovering some from the dire months of March and April, according to Kaufman Hall’s most recent hospital report.

The "National Hospital Flash Report," which is based on a sample of 800 hospitals around the country shows, showed declines median operating margins, adjusted discharges and emergency department visits compared with August of last year. Kaufman Hall puts out a report for every month, and the reports have provided some measurements of how hospitals are faring financially during COVID pandemic.

The financial numbers in the September report brighten if funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are added in, but they are still down relative to last year.

“August was a challenging month for hospitals nationwide, as margins fell across the board. The declines follow three months of moderate gains after devastating losses in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says the report.

Related: Hospital Finances, Patient Volume Numbers on the Mend, Kaufman Hall Report Shows

HMedian operating margins for the hospitals were 18% lower in August of this year than in August 2019 if the CARES Act money is not included. With the CARES Act, the relative difference narrows to 3%.

The Kaufman Hall numbers show fairly increases in per-patient expenses; for example, the total expense per adjusted discharge was 15% higher in August than in August 2019 and the labor expense per adjusted discharge was 14% higher in August than in August 2019.

Hospitals are seeing a particular larger decline in emergency department visits, according to Kaufman Hall. Visits in August were down 16% compared with August 2019.

Here are some of the volume measures in the report and the relative difference between August of this year and August 2019:

Adjusted patient days-11.5%
Average lengty of stay+6.1%
Emergency department visits-15.8%
Operating room minutes-6.4%
Adjusted discharges-11.5%