Major for-profit hospital operators have reported volume growth in the fourth quarter of 2019, cheering providers following a long trend of deceleration. HCA, Community Health Services, UHS and Tenet all saw year-over-year admissions improvement as they closed out the last fiscal quarter.
HCA, the nation's largest hospital operator with 184 facilities, reported broad based volume growth and tallied its 23rd consecutive quarter of inpatient admissions increases. CEO Sam Hazen said 2019 garnered a "record level of patient volumes."
Community Health Services executives also also touted the best volume growth it has seen in about a decade.
Over the past few years the health system has been trimming its hospital portfolio to dump underperforming facilities. While total admissions has fallen because of the paring down of total hospitals, when looking at the same-hospitals year-over-year, adjusted admissions were up 2.2%.
Longtime CHS CEO Wayne Smith said during an earnings call last week it was the "strongest performance since 2008."
Though UHS saw a slight volume slowdown from the third quarter, adjusted admissions at its hospitals jumped more than 2% in the fourth quarter and almost 5% for the full year. And Tenet, which otherwise closed the year off at a hefty loss, reported same-store adjusted admissions up almost 2% — its fourth consecutive quarter of admissions gains — in a bright spot for the company.
Patient levels were also key for nonprofit organizations reporting results recently, albeit driven by outpatient services.
Not-for-profit giant Ascension reported its biggest volume growth in outpatient services while its total discharges remained relatively flat during the six-month period ended Dec. 31. The biggest volume gains came from physician office and clinic visits, which jumped 8.3%.
However, Ascension did note the acuity level of patients increased over this time frame. One major payer also noticed this uptick in doctor visits among certain populations, though Centene seemed less concerned about the acuity level given the uptick in visits was not due to specialty care.
CommonSpirit reported an increase in admissions for the six-month period ended Dec. 31. However, outpatient visits were far outpacing those admitted to the system's 137 hospitals. The organization reported 13.2 million outpatient visits during the period compared to about 838,000 adjusted admissions.
Ohio-based nonprofit Cleveland Clinic reported a record number of patient visits over the full year: 2.4 million, a 20% jump over 2018, helping spur the almost-century-old system to $390.2 million in income. Mayo Clinic skated to $1.06 billion in profit for 2019, also driven by strong volume growth: inpatient admissions up 2.1% year over year and surgical patients up 3.6%.
Here is Healthcare Dive's coverage of provider earnings for 2019.