53% of hospitals saw ICU load imbalance due to the pandemic: Study

More than 53 percent of hospitals in the U.S. endured load imbalance during the pandemic, researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., have found.

COVID-19's emergence strained the limits of hospitals around the country and caused ICU admissions to rise so much that many facilities were over capacity, while other areas of the hospital still had open beds. 

Out of the data they analyzed from 290 hospital referral regions between July 2020 and March 2022, 154 experienced load imbalance. 

The study, which was published July 5 in Health Affairs, also revealed that regions were more likely to experience overload and imbalance if they also served a larger population of Black or low-income patients.

"The research highlights the need for better coordination of patient transfers, which can alleviate overcapacity and ease inequities in care," William Schpero, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine said in a statement.

He noted that lacking a sweeping solution to the issue, policies that focus on more seamlessly coordinating patient transfers during times of high demand and increasing capacity.


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