The severe flu season buoyed HCA Healthcare's admissions and emergency department visits, but executives told analysts on a call Tuesday those metrics had already been on the upswing.
Net income attributable to the Nashville-based hospital chain was $1.1 billion in the first quarter of 2018, up 74% from $659 million in the first quarter of 2017. Revenue increased 7.5% during the same time, to $11.4 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
Same-facility admissions were up 2.2% in the quarter, and about 29% of admissions growth in that time was due to flu cases, Samuel Hazen, HCA's chief operating officer, said on Tuesday's earnings call. Urgent-care visits jumped 14% during the quarter, some of which was also flu-related.
Free-standing emergency room visits grew 23% on a same-facility basis, while hospital-based ED visits grew 1.2% during the quarter. Roughly half of the growth in ED visits was due to the flu, Hazen said.
But HCA has more than just the flu to thank for its admissions growth, Hazen said: The company's own strategy has helped too. The recently ended quarter marked 16 consecutive quarters in which HCA has seen growth in same-facility admissions and emergency department visits, he said.
"We believe this consistent pattern of growth is the result of positive macro-factors in our markets and a comprehensive growth agenda that is both well-resourced and well-executed."
Outpatient surgeries declined 0.5% on a same-facility basis. Same-facility self-pay and charity admissions increased more than 10% in the quarter and represented a higher proportion of total admissions during that time. About 70% of HCA's total uninsured admissions take place in Texas and Florida, said Bill Rutherford, HCA's chief financial officer.
Admissions of managed-care Medicare patients jumped sharply, up 9.5% on a same-facility basis in the quarter, and representing 36.3% of HCA's total Medicare admissions. Same-facility Medicaid admissions were relatively flat.
HCA made $405 million from selling facilities during the quarter, primarily in Oklahoma. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased about 6% to $2.1 billion in the quarter.