A Modern Healthcare analysis of cost report data from more than 3,000 acute-care hospitals found median total salaries did not increase at the same rate as median expenses between fiscal 2013 and 2019.
Hospitals found some success at slowing the growth rate for labor costs before the pandemic, according to Erik Swanson, vice president of data and analytics at Kaufman Hall. But the pandemic changed that, driving labor costs and overall expenses higher.
One reason for the change, according to Kaufman Hall data, is that although fewer patients are coming into hospitals, those who need treatment stay much longer—often because care was delayed due to the pandemic.
“In moments of surges, when patients begin to delay or postpone care, we see expenses rising on a delayed basis, be it three or six months after the fact,” Swanson said.
Patients who delayed care could be sicker and have more complicated cases, which can result in higher costs, including specialty pharmaceuticals.
“This can lead to real challenges for organizations as well as the patients themselves,” Swanson said.