COVID-19 and Severe Acute Respiratory Infections: Monitoring Trends in 421 German Hospitals During the First Four Pandemic Waves

Infect Drug Resist. 2023 May 8:16:2775-2781. doi: 10.2147/IDR.S402313. eCollection 2023.


Introduction: Reliable surveillance systems to monitor trends of COVID-19 case numbers and the associated healthcare burden play a central role in efficient pandemic management. In Germany, the federal government agency Robert-Koch-Institute uses an ICD-code-based inpatient surveillance system, ICOSARI, to assess temporal trends of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and COVID-19 hospitalization numbers. In a similar approach, we present a large-scale analysis covering four pandemic waves derived from the Initiative of Quality Medicine (IQM), a German-wide network of acute care hospitals.

Methods: Routine data from 421 hospitals for the years 2019-2021 with a "pre-pandemic" period (01-01-2019 to 03-03-2020) and a "pandemic" period (04-03-2020 to 31-12-2021) was analysed. SARI cases were defined by ICD-codes J09-J22 and COVID-19 by ICD-codes U07.1 and U07.2. The following outcomes were analysed: intensive care treatment, mechanical ventilation, in-hospital mortality.

Results: Over 1.1 million cases of SARI and COVID-19 were identified. Patients with COVID-19 and additional codes for SARI were at higher risk for adverse outcomes when compared to non-COVID SARI and COVID-19 without any coding for SARI. During the pandemic period, non-COVID SARI cases were associated with 28%, 23% and 27% higher odds for intensive care treatment, mechanical ventilation and in-hospital mortality, respectively, compared to pre-pandemic SARI.

Conclusion: The nationwide IQM network could serve as an excellent data source to enhance COVID-19 and SARI surveillance in view of the ongoing pandemic. Future developments of COVID-19/SARI case numbers and associated outcomes should be closely monitored to identify specific trends, especially considering novel virus variants.

Keywords: COVID-19; Germany; SARI; hospital network; initiative of quality medicine; inpatient.

Grants and funding

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.