The National Hospital Care Survey (NHCS), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, collects data on patient care in hospital-based settings to describe patterns of health care delivery and utilization in the United States. Eligible hospitals are in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and include noninstitutional and nonfederal hospitals with six or more staffed inpatient beds. Settings currently include inpatient and emergency departments (ED). The survey collects electronic data (Uniform Bill (UB–04) administrative claims or electronic health records) for all encounters in a calendar year from a nationally representative sample of 608 hospitals. NHCS contributes data that may inform public health emergencies as the survey is designed to capture emerging diseases and viruses that require hospitalizations, including COVID-19 encounters. The 2020 NHCS is not yet fully operational so it is important to note that these data are not nationally representative.
The NHCS results provided on COVID-19 hospital use are from UB–04 administrative claims data from March 18, 2020 through December 29, 2020 from 50 hospitals that submitted inpatient data and 47 hospitals that submitted ED data. The data used in these figures are considered preliminary, and the results may change with subsequent releases. Even though the data are not nationally representative, they can provide insight on the impact of COVID-19 on various types of hospitals throughout the country. The NHCS data from these hospitals can show results by a combination of indicators related to COVID-19, such as length of inpatient stay, in-hospital mortality, comorbidities, and intubation or ventilator use. Additionally, NHCS data allow for reporting on patient conditions and treatments within the hospital over time.