Low on Sundays, high on weekdays: A pattern in how often hospitals report some COVID stats to DHHS

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The percentage of hospitals that reported their daily counts of open hospital beds and COVID-19 patients to state health officials matched a four-week high Friday, a CBS 17 News data analysis found.

As CBS 17 News reported last month, hospitals are not required to report those specific figures to the state each day. The Department of Health and Human Services discloses the percentage of responding hospitals on its daily coronavirus information website.

CBS 17 News tracked those percentages for each of the past 28 days and discovered a pattern: Sundays consistently show the lowest rates of response with those numbers generally improving later during the work week.

Those response rates are critical because one of the key metrics the state is charting as it decides how to progress through the reopening process is how the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is trending — and the state relies on the hospitals to provide those figures.

And one of the primary concerns during the coronavirus crisis was that health care facilities would be overrun by patients seeking treatment for the highly contagious disease.

Hospitals are asked to complete an online survey each morning. Those results are submitted to DHHS, which compiles them before releasing them before 11 a.m. each day.

The average response rate from the state’s 126 hospitals during the past four weeks is 87 percent. According to DHHS, 94 percent of hospitals responded Friday, matching the high set May 7. The lowest percentage came April 20, when just 77 percent of hospitals reported their figures to the state.

Since April 17, there have been nine days with a response rate of 90 percent of better, compared to five days where it falls below 80 percent.

Sundays have proven to be the worst days for reporting, with an average of 78 percent of hospitals responding on those days over the past month. That percentage increases to an average of 91.5 percent on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The data also shows that hospitals seem to have enough capacity to treat patients: There have been at least 5,317 total beds — and at least 612 intensive care beds — vacant every day since DHHS started releasing those daily bed counts.

The number of hospitalized patients has stabilized, with the 14-day rolling average either dropping or holding steady for six straight days after it had climbed consistently since early April. There were 492 patients in the hospital Friday, lowering that rolling average to 499.

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