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The Perelman School of Medicine found a significant decrease in COVID-19 mortality rates since last March. 

Credit: Max Mester

COVID-19 mortality rates have decreased throughout the pandemic, researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine found.

Since patient characteristics and the severity of illness have remained the same throughout the pandemic, the study suggests that hospital staff quickly improved their approach to patient care even before evidence-based medications were introduced on a large scale. The study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, uses data from 21 intensive care units across five Penn Medicine hospitals.

Researchers studied the outcomes of COVID-19 patients admitted over 15-day periods from March 2020 to July 2020, Penn Medicine News reported. Mortality over a 28-day period decreased with each consecutive period.

At the start of the study, the in-hospital mortality rate for COVID-19 ICU patients was 43.5%. By July, it had fallen to 19.2%.

“These findings make us proud after a difficult year,” co-lead author George L. Anesi, MD, MSCE, MBE, an instructor of Medicine in Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care and co-chair of the Penn Medicine Critical Care Alliance COVID-19 and Pandemic Preparedness Committee, told Penn Today. “COVID-19 remains a dangerous and deadly disease, but data suggests that our clinicians and front-line workers have quickly gained wisdom and practical knowledge from all of the experience and used that to help more critically ill patients survive.”

The teams leading the COVID-19 response at Penn provided front line workers with extensive training in care for patients with highly-infectious respiratory diseases to create a strong foundation in the early stages if the pandemic, Penn Medicine News reported. The Critical Care Alliance COVID-19 Task Force also provided a systematic approach for frontline workers to share ideas, consider patient outcomes, and implement new approaches to best care for each and every patient. 

Based on the results of the study, the researchers now plan to identify what efforts have made the most substantial impact on mortality rates.

“Separate from the evidence-based medication we now have, we cannot yet say what specifically has made a difference, but it’s likely a combination of many adjustments and additions along a commitment to constant reflection and the principles of critical care," Anesi told Penn Medicine News.

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