Hospital stay length

The average hospital stay for COVID-19 patients is more than three weeks, on average at 22.4 days, according to the Regenstrief Institute, which compiles hospitalization data for Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re admitted to a hospital with COVID-19, you may be in for a three-week stay.

Or longer, depending on your age and symptoms.

Those long stays are also likely to lead to huge medical bills for patients, as daily inpatient care at hospitals can cost thousands per day, on average.

Of the more than 50,000 known cases of COVID-19 in Indiana and tracked by the Regenstrief Institute that tracks hospitalizations, as of Thursday, 7,747 had been admitted to hospitals, a rate of about 14.7% and a rate that’s been decreasing since earlier days of the pandemic.

Of those people admitted to the hospital, 1,643 people were then admitted into an intensive care unit due to the severity of their cases. That’s about 21% of the admissions, but only about 3.1% of the total COVID-19 cases in the state.

Once admitted, though, patients are likely to spend weeks in care, according to Regenstrief’s data.

The organization has been tracking hospital stay length by both age and type of admission.

Overall, the average hospital stay for COVID-19 for all ages is 22.4 days, just over three weeks. The length of stay is slightly longer, 23.5 days, for regular hospital admissions and shorter for ICU patients at 16 days, likely because ICU patients go on to die in the hospital.

Like COVID-19 itself, the virus affects different age groups differently when it comes to length of stay.

Patients in their 50s, who make up the third largest group of hospitalizations at 17.8% of all admissions, have, to date, had the longest average hospital stays at 27.5 days on average. Admitted patients stay an average of 28.3 days, while ICU patient stays are slightly shorter at 22 days.

Patients in their 60s have the second longest stays at 25.8 days, 26.9 days for regular patients and 18.7 days for ICU admits; while patients in their 40s are third at 23.6 days overall, 24.9 for regular admissions and 15.6 days for ICU patients.

Older patients have slightly lower average stays than middle-aged Hoosiers — again, likely because they are more prone to die in care than younger patients — with the 70s demographic at 22.1-day stay overall (23.4 days regular, 16.1 ICU) and 16.3 days at the 80-year-old-plus grouping (17.5 day regular, 10.3 ICU).

Younger patients, who are hospitalized at far lower rates and have far lower death rates than older Hoosiers, can still expect to stay for more than two weeks if they end up admitted.

The average stays for patients in their 30s is 16.4 days (16.9 days regular, 11.9 ICU) and 15.8 for patients in their 20s (15.9 days regular, 15.3 ICU).

The youngest Hoosiers under 20, which have accounted for just 96 admissions, or 1.2%, are unique in being the only age group to have patients stay longer in the ICU than outside of it. With a total average of 9.1 days in care, that’s broken down between 8.5 days for regular admissions versus 18.5 days for ICU admissions.

Hospital stays, even short ones, can lead to expensive medical bills for patients, and long-term stays are likely to create huge bills.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average expenses per inpatient day for hospitals in Indiana at $2,591 per day, just slightly higher than the U.S. national average of $2,517 per day. But that figure is the cost to hospitals, not the charges to patients.

According to national trend data, the average inpatient hospital stay in the U.S. is about five days and comes with a price tag on average of more than $20,000.

Intensive care unit stays are also far more expensive than regular hospital admissions, with mechanical ventilation — a procedure needed for some COVID-19 patients with severely reduced lung functioning — being one of the more expensive inpatient procedures.

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