Inpatient Use and Outcomes at Children's Hospitals During the Early COVID-19 Pandemic.

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DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-044735


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to changes in health care use, including decreased emergency department visits for children. In this study, we sought to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inpatient use within children's hospitals.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective study using the Pediatric Health Information System. We compared inpatient use and clinical outcomes for children 0 to 18 years of age during the COVID-19 period (March 15 to August 29, 2020) to the same time frame in the previous 3 years (pre-COVID-19 period). Adjusted generalized linear mixed models were used to examine the association of the pandemic period with inpatient use. We assessed trends overall and for a subgroup of 15 medical All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (APR-DRGs).

RESULTS: We identified 424 856 hospitalizations (mean: 141 619 hospitalizations per year) in the pre-COVID-19 period and 91 532 in the COVID-19 period. Compared with the median number of hospitalizations in the pre-COVID-19 period, we observed declines in hospitalizations overall (35.1%), and by APR-DRG (range: 8.5%-81.3%) with asthma (81.3%), bronchiolitis (80.1%), and pneumonia (71.4%) experiencing the greatest declines. Overall readmission rates were lower during the COVID-19 period; however, other outcomes, including length of stay, cost, ICU use, and mortality remained similar to the pre-COVID-19 period with some variability by APR-DRGs.

CONCLUSIONS: US children's hospitals observed substantial reductions in inpatient admissions with largely unchanged hospital-level outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the impact on use varied by condition, the most notable declines were related to inpatient admissions for respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia.

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