Volumes, margins on the rise as hospitals slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

June 29, 2021 / Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The numbers indicate the severity of the pandemic is waning, both in terms of virus transmission and hospitals’ financial health.

Hospitals and health systems around the country are continuing a slow and steady improvement in certain key areas as they bounce back from the steep losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volumes and margins both increased compared to 2020, according to the June Kaufman Hall Flash Report, but are still below 2019 levels. Total expenses and revenues rose above both pandemic and pre-pandemic performance.

The numbers are a further indication that the severity of the pandemic is beginning to wane, both in terms of virus transmission and the financial health of the nation’s hospitals. The seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases fell 63% over the course of the month, from 49,478 on May 1 to 18,134 on May 31, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.1 The seven-day moving average of new admissions for patients with confirmed COVID-19 fell 44%, from 4,805 on May 1 to 2,705 on May 31. 

Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations dropped steeply. The seven-day moving average of daily doses administered fell nearly 60%, from 2.3 million on May 1 to 930,703 on May 31. More than 138.5 million Americans had been fully vaccinated by month’s end.


Patient volumes — outpatient volumes in particular — were up, but hospitals are still operating on narrow margins, the data showed. The median hospital margin index was 2.6% in May, not including federal CARES funding. With the funding, it was 3.5%. The median operating EBITDA margin for the month was 7.2% without CARES and 8% with CARES. 


Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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