Apr 29, 2024 - Health

Turning point: COVID-era hospital reporting set to end

Illustration of a cursor arrow clicking the close button on a dialogue box top bar which is attached to the top of a hospital road sign

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Hospitals starting this week will no longer have to report data on admissions, occupancy and other indicators of possible system stress from respiratory diseases to federal officials as another COVID-era mandate expires.

Why it matters: The sunset of the reporting requirement on May 1 marks a turning point in the government's real-time tracking of airborne pathogens that helped drive coronavirus surveillance and reports like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's FluView.

Catch up quick: Federal officials since March 2020 collected data from hospitals and states to understand health care system stress, capacity and capabilities.

  • Beyond COVID-19, the information helped guide prevention and response efforts to seasonal flu and RSV, which can also place a serious burden on emergency departments and ICUs.
  • The required reporting to the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network was scheduled to end with the COVID-19 public health emergency last May but was extended through this Tuesday, with fewer requirements.

Flashback: The government stopped or scaled back other data reporting at the end of the public health emergency, covering metrics like daily new COVID cases and test positivity.

  • That left wastewater surveillance and hospital admissions as some of the most effective barometers of disease spread.
  • Since the pandemic's start, there have been 6.9 million COVID-19 hospitalizations and almost 1.2 million coronavirus-associated deaths in the U.S., per the CDC.

What we're watching: Reporting will still be optional, and some health systems may combine data for all facilities in their network.

  • Flu hospitalization data after this week won't be included in CDC reports for the remainder of the 2023-2024 season.
  • Meanwhile, more health systems are shifting services toward outpatient settings, which could in theory ease some capacity demands.
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