NJ hospitals see 40% rise in patients admitted with 'major' and 'extreme' illnesses

More than 40 percent of people who seek medical care at New Jersey hospitals are presenting with "major" or "extreme" levels of illness, according to a May 24 New Jersey Hospital Association report, which noted the highest levels of severe illness were reported by inpatients with a non-COVID-19 diagnosis. 

This increase represents a 21 percent hike between 2019 and 2022. The data was measured by codes from the All-Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Group, which assign patients admitted to the hospital a pain severity level from one to four — mild, moderate, major or extreme.

At the same time, "the reverse trend was seen among COVID patients; severity levels decreased 44 percent from 2020 to 2022 as hospitals improved their COVID treatments and the virus became less virulent amid wider vaccination and immunity," a May 24 NJHA news release said.

Two other trends were mentioned in the NJHA's report. Black and white patients were more likely to be hospitalized with "major" or "extreme" illness when compared with other racial and ethnic groups in 2019; while in 2022, all racial groups presented with the increased severity of illness.

The other trend observed is with regard to age. In 2019, the average age of a non-COVID-19 patient with "moderate" illness admitted to a New Jersey hospital was 54. In 2022, it was 50.

While the report did not identify causes behind these trends, the NJHA suggested there were a "significant" number of people who died at home in 2020 from strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, the increase in severe illness being seen now in New Jersey hospitals may point to patients who delayed care during the pandemic and are now being seen for worsening health conditions.

"There’s no question about it: We’re seeing much sicker patients presenting at our hospitals," said Cathy Bennett, president and CEO of the NJHA. "That’s a real worry for the health of our population, and an added burden for hospitals and their care teams in the midst of a severe workforce shortage."


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