The Scope and Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Neuroemergent Patient Transfers, Clinical Care and Patient Outcomes

Front Surg. 2022 Jun 9:9:914798. doi: 10.3389/fsurg.2022.914798. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to substantially alter previously established clinical practice patterns and has transformed patient care in American healthcare. However, studies to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on neuroemergent patient care and associated clinical outcomes are limited. Herein, we describe the impact of COVID-19 on the Neuroemergency Transfer Program (NTP) - a novel, urban, high volume interhospital patient transfer program.

Objective: To evaluate and describe the clinical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NTP.

Study design: A single-center retrospective study of prospectively collected consecutive neuroemergent patient transfer data between 2018-2021 was analyzed. Adult patients were divided based upon transfer date into a Pre-COVID (PCOV) or COVID cohort. Patient demographics, transfer characteristics and clinical data and outcomes were analyzed.

Results: 3,096 patients were included for analysis. Mean age at transfer in the PCOV and COVID cohorts were 62.4 ± 0.36 and 61.1 ± 0.6 years. A significant decrease in mean transfers per month was observed between cohorts (PCOV = 97.8 vs. COV = 68.2 transfers/month, p < 0.01). Total transfer time in the PCOV cohort was 155.1 ± 3.4 min which increased to 169.3 ± 12.8 min in the COVID cohort (p = 0.13). Overall mean transfer distance was significantly longer in the PCOV cohort at 22.0 ± 0.4 miles vs. 20.3 ± 0.67 miles in the COV cohort (p = 0.03). The relative frequency of transfer diagnoses was unchanged between cohorts. A significant increase in mean inpatient length of stay was noted, 7.9 ± 0.15 days to 9.6 ± 0.33 days in the PCOV vs. COVID cohorts (p < 0.01). Ultimately, no difference in the frequency of good vs. poor clinical outcome were noted between the PCOV (79.8% and 19.4%) vs. COV (78.8% and 20.4%) cohorts.

Conclusion: The impact of COVID-19 on current healthcare dynamics are far reaching. Here, we show a significant decrease in interhospital patient transfers and increased length of stay between a Pre-COVID and COVID cohort. Further work to better elucidate the specific interplay of clinical contributors to account for these changes is indicated.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; interhospital transfer; neurocritical care; neuroemergency.