- Hospitals' outpatient volumes and revenues rose in March as omicron cases subsided, though operating margins remained negative for the third month in a row, according to Kaufman Hall's monthly National Hospital Flash Report out Monday.
- While adjusted expenses stayed elevated compared to prior years, they decreased from February to March, and volume growth outpaced expense growth, according to the report.
- Providers still face ongoing challenges around mounting inflation, national labor shortages and global supply chain issues, though "these trends indicate some pressures of the pandemic may be lifting," Erik Swanson, senior vice president of data and analytics at Kaufman Hall, said in a release.
Cases of the omicron variant peaked and fell within the first three months of the year, and by March many patients were returning for nonurgent procedures and other care, especially outpatient, that had been previously delayed.
From February to March, operating room minutes and emergency department visits both rose about 17%, according to Kaufman Hall's report, which analyzes data from more than 900 hospitals across the country.
Higher volumes led to higher revenues, with gross operating revenues up 14% month over month and outpatient revenue up 16%.
Inpatient volume increases slowed during the month though, and "declining COVID-19 case rates also meant hospitals had fewer high-acuity patients," Swanson said.
From February to March, adjusted patient days were up 12.5%, while adjusted discharges rose 18%. Average length of stay fell more than 6% month over month.
Operating margins, however, remained negative for the third consecutive month. In January, hospital margins went negative for the first time since February of 2021.
Physician practices also saw rebounds in the first few months of the year, according to Kaufman Hall's Physician Flash Report also released Monday.
Physician productivity, compensation and revenues rose with higher patient volumes from the fourth quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, according to that report.
Higher volumes, though, resulted in higher investments and subsidies to support physician practices as they dealt with ongoing heightened expenses, inflation and a tight labor market, according to the report.