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During the first three months of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 outbreak, 4.7% of people sent home after an initial emergency room visit for coronavirus returned to the hospital within just three days.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Nearly one in 10 coronavirus patients were rehospitalized after being sent home following an initial emergency department visit in the first months of the pandemic, according to a recent Penn Medicine study. 

According to data collected during the first three months of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 outbreak, 4.7% of people sent home after an initial emergency room visit for coronavirus returned to the hospital within just three days, Penn Medicine News reported. An additional 3.9% were readmitted within a week, meaning that 8.6% of patients were readmitted within a week of their initial visit.

The study’s authors found that the readmission rate was about twice that of other infectious diseases, Penn Medicine News reported. Researchers told Penn Medicine News they hope that the study’s findings will provide guidance to emergency clinicians in dealing with patients they believe to have COVID-19.

“The concern is not that emergency physicians are making wrong decisions, but rather that COVID can be unpredictable and turn severe rather quickly,” Emergency Medicine physician at Penn Medicine Austin Kilaru told Penn Medicine News.

The study showed that patients exhibiting low blood oxygen levels were four times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital than other coronavirus patients, Penn Medicine News reported. Patients with a fever were three times more likely to be readmitted.

The study also showed that older patients were more likely to require readmission, Penn Medicine News reported. Compared to patients 18 to 39 years old, those over 60 were more than five times as likely to require rehospitalization. Patients 40 to 59 years old were three times more likely to be rehospitalized than the younger group. 

The study found no disparities in race among rehospitalized patients, Penn Medicine News reported. The study’s authors said this reinforces previous findings that racial disparities in coronavirus infection and death rates were not due to differences in treatment once at a hospital, but lower access to care in low-income communities.

The study used data from 1,419 patients who were admitted to the emergency department at Penn Medicine between March 1 and May 28, 2020 and tested positive for COVID-19 within the next seven days.

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